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William Tyndale, the man chosen of God. to be one of his chief instruments in the blessed work of restoring the knowledge of the way of salvation amongst the inhabitants of our island, was fitted for this work by being endowed with such ability and learning as enabled him to lay the foundation of our authorized version of the scriptures; and his life was not taken away till he had more than half completed that English Bible, which has been one of God’s best gifts to the nations speaking the English tongue.
There are probable, though not indisputable, grounds for believing, that he was descended from forefathers who were barons of Tyndale in Northumberland, till their title passed by an heiress into the family of Bolteby, in the thirteenth century, and eventually to the Percies . This descent is unhesitatingly claimed for himself by a Thomas Tyndale, of Kington St Michael, near Calne, in a letter written, February 3rd, 1663, to a namesake, whom he addresses as his cousin, and whose father was a grandson of the reformer’s elder brother. “The first of your family,” says the letter-writer, “came out of the north, in the times of the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, at what time many of good sort (their side going down) did fly for refuge where they could find it. Coming into Glocestershire, and changing his name to that of Hutchins, he afterwards married there, and so having children he did, before his death, declare his right name, and from whence, and upon what subject he came thither; and so taking his own name, did leave it unto his children, who have since continued it, as it was fit they should. This I have heard from your good father himself .”
It seems to have been in the village of Stinchcombe, near Dursley, that Hugh Tyndale, the refugee above spoken of, found the concealment he thus sought. His grandson Thomas married Alicia, sole heiress of Thomas Hunt of Huntscourt, in the neighboring village of North Nibley, and appears to have had by her five sons. Of these William was the second; but in which of the two villages he was born, or in what year, cannot be stated with certainty. The probability is, however, that he was born in North Nibley, and in the year 1484. Of his course of life, from infancy till he must have been about six and thirty years of age, we still know no more than is told in the following brief extract from Foxe’s Acts and Monuments. “Touching the birth and parentage of this blessed martyr of Christ, he was born about the borders of Wales, and brought up from a child in the university of Oxford, where he by long continuance grew and increased as well in the knowledge of tongues and other liberal arts, as specially in the knowledge of the scriptures, whereunto his mind was singularly addicted: insomuch that he, lying there in Magdalen hall, read privily to certain students and fellows of Magdalen college some parcel of divinity, instructing them in the knowledge and truth of the scriptures. Whose manners also and conversation, being correspondent to the same, were such that all they that knew him reputed and esteemed him to be a man of most virtuous disposition, and of life unspotted. Thus he in the university of Oxford increasing more and more in learning, and proceeding in degrees of the schools, spying his time, removed from thence to the university of Cambridge, where after he had likewise made his abode a certain space, being now further ripened in the knowledge of God’s word, leaving that university also, he resorted to one master Welsh, knight of Glocestershire; and was there school-master to his children, and in very good favor with his master. “ In his endeavor to glean some addition to this scanty information, Mr..
Offer has discovered that a William Tyndale was ordained priest in 1503; and that a person of the same name made his profession in the monastery of the Observants in Greenwich, in 1508. But if 1503 were not too early a date for the reformer’s admission into the priesthood, the person ordained is described as properly belonging to the diocese of Carlisle; of which every thing else would lead us to conclude that our William was neither a native, nor brought up within its jurisdiction. On the other hand, it is quite incredible that the William Tyndale who took monastic vows at Greenwich should have been the same person as the reformer. For that noted monastery was contiguous to a favorite residence of Henry VIII., so that our Tyndale’s keen adversary, sir Thomas More, could not but have known the fact, if he had been chargeable with deserting it. But whilst More does not fail to call Luther and Oecolampadius friars, from time to time, and scarcely ever speaks of Jerome and Roye, who had quitted that very monastery, without calling them either friars or apostates, to induce his readers to look upon Tyndale as the disciple and associate of perjured deserters from the monastic profession, he calls Tyndale himself simply Tyndale, or Hychins, or sir William; which last was then the usual way of designating a priest. All that we can add therefore to Foxe’s account of Tyndale’s academic life, is but that his removing to Cambridge was probably for the purpose of profiting by Erasmus’ lectures, who taught Greek there from 1509 till the beginning of 1514; whereas there was no regular Greek lectureship founded in Oxford till about 1517. Of his removal into Glocestershire we can say with more precision that its date could not have been earlier than 1520, when he was about thirty-four years of age; and that the person who had the sagacity to select him for the instruction of his children, was sir John Walsh, at one time an acceptable frequenter of the court, but now living as a country gentleman in his manor-house at Little Sodbury. “This gentleman,” proceeds Foxe, “as he kept a very good ordinary commonly at his table, there resorted unto him, many times, sundry abbots, deans, archdeacons, with other divers doctors and great beneficed men; who there together with M. Tyndale, sitting at the same table, did use many times to enter communication, and talk of learned men, as of Luther and of Erasmus: also of divers other controversies and questions upon the scripture. Then Master Tyndale, as he was learned and well practiced in God’s matters, so he spared not to shew unto them simply and plainly his judgment in matters, as he thought. And when as they at any time did vary from Tyndale in opinions and judgment, he would shew them in the book, and lay plainly before them the open and manifest places of the scriptures, to confute their errors and confirm his sayings. And thus continued they for a certain season, reasoning and contending together divers and sundry times, till at length they waxed weary and bare a secret grudge in their hearts against him.” “Not long after this it happened that certain of these great doctors had invited Master Welsh and his wife to a banquet; where they had talk at will and pleasure, uttering their blindness and ignorance without any resistance or gain-saying. Then M. Welsh and his wife, coming home and calling for M. Tyndale, began to reason with him about those matters, whereof the priests had talked before at their banquet. M. Tyndale, answering by scriptures, maintained the truth, and reproved their false opinions. Then said the lady Welsh, a stout and a wise woman (as Tyndale reported), ‘Well, there was such a doctor, which may dispend £100, another £200, and another £300.
And what, were it reason, think you, that we should believe you before them?’ Master Tyndale gave her no answer at that time, nor also after that (because he saw it would not avail) he talked but little in those matters.” “At that time he was about the translation of a book called Enchiridion militis Christiani, which being translated, he delivered to his master and lady; who after they had read and well perused the same, the doctorly prelates were no more so often called to the house, neither had they the cheer and countenance when they came, as before they had. Which thing they marking and well perceiving, and supposing no less but it came by the means of Master Tyndale, refrained themselves, and at last utterly withdrew themselves, and came no more there. “ “As this grew on, the priests of the country, clustering together, began to grudge and storm against Tyndale, railing against him in alehouses and other places. Of whom Tyndale himself, in his prologue before the first book of Moses, re-porteth that they affirmed his sayings were heresy; adding moreover unto his sayings, of their own heads, more than ever he spake, and so accused him secretly to the chancellor and other of the bishop’s officers. “ “It followed not long after this that there was a sitting of the bishop’s chancellor appointed, and warning was given to the priests to appear; amongst whom M. Tyndale was also warned to be there.
And whether he had any misdoubt by their threatenings, or knowledge given him that they would lay something to his charge, it is uncertain: but certain this is, as he himself declared, that he doubted their privy accusations: so that he by the way, in going thitherwards, cried in his mind heartily to God, to give him strength fast to stand in the truth of his word.”
The county of Glocester was as yet included in the diocese of Worcester; which was then so rich a see that it had attracted the notice of the papal court, and four Italian priests had managed to get possession of it in succession. In 1521, Pope Leo X. gave it to Giulio de Medici, a base-born son of one of his own relations, who was at the same time Archbishop of Florence in Italy, and of Narbonne in France, and became Pope Clement VII. before the close of 1523. Leo’s claim to the right of disposing of this see to whom he would, arose out of the fact that the previous Italian Bishop of Worcester, Sylvestro de Gigli, had died at Rome; and his claim had been made palatable to Henry VIII. by the pope’s empowering Cardinal Wolsey to exercise the patronage and receive the revenues of the bishoprick for its Italian incumbent, who would not be strict in scrutinising the accounts of such a steward. As to the care of the flock, these Italian bishops left that to officers, who could the better act the despot from the circumstance that their lord was far away. It seems to have been whilst Giulio de Medici was the absentee bishop, that Tyndale received a summons to appear before his chancellor, who acted as governor of the diocese. That chancellor was a Dr. Parker, who had the boldness, ten years later, to execute the sentence of the convocation which had voted that the body of William Tracy, Esq., a Glocestershire gentleman, should be turned out of its grave and burned for heresy; because Mr.. Tracy had declared in his will that “he would bestow no part of his goods” to procure any thing “that any should say or do to help his soul.”
The offense which Tyndale had given to the priests by making them unacceptable guests, where they had been wont to find honor and a loaded table, was now aggravated by his having become a zealous preacher in the country, “about the town of Bristol, and also in the said town, in the common place called St Austin’s Green. We may well therefore believe Tyndale’s account, who says, “When I came before the chancellor, he threatened me grievously, and reviled me, and rated me as though I had been a dog; and laid to my charge whereof there could be none accuser brought forth; and yet all the priests of the country were the same day there. “ For what followed we return to Foxe’s narrative. “Thus M. Tyndale, after those examinations, escaping out of their hands, departed home and returned to his master again. There dwelt not far off a certain doctor, that had been an old chancellor before to a bishop, who had been of old familiar acquaintance with M. Tyndale, and also favored him well, unto whom M.
Tyndale went and opened his mind upon divers questions of the scripture; for to him he durst be bold to disclose his heart. This doctor said to him, ‘Do you not know that the pope is very antichrist, whom the scripture speaketh of? But beware what you say; for if you shall be perceived to be of that opinion, it will cost you your life.’ He said, moreover, ‘I have been an officer of his; but I have given it up, and I defy him and all his works.’” “It was not long after but M. Tyndale happened to be in the company of a certain divine recounted for a learned man; and in communing and disputing with him he drave him to that issue, that the said great doctor burst out into these blasphemous words and said, ‘We were better to be without God’s laws than the pope’s.’ Master Tyndale hearing this, full of godly zeal, and not bearing that blasphemous saying, replied again, and said, ‘I defy the pope and all his laws:’ and further added, that if God spared him life, ere many year’s he would cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the scripture than he did.”
The words he had uttered were not likely to be kept secret by the priest to whom they were spoken; and Foxe accordingly proceeds to say, “After this, the grudge of the priests increasing still more and more against Tyndale, they never ceased barking and rating at him, and laid many sore things to his charge, saying, that he was a heretic in sophistry, a heretic in logic, a heretic in divinity; and said moreover to him, that he bare himself bold of the gentlemen there in that country, but notwithstanding, shortly he should be otherwise talked withal.” But Tyndale let them know that his confidence was not built upon his influence or connection with the gentlemen of Glocestershire. He answered them, “That he was contented they should bring him into any country in all England, giving him ten pounds a year to live with, and binding him to no more but to teach children and to preach.”
From his reflections on their opposition however he providentially learnt another lesson. “I perceived,” says he, “how that it was impossible to establish the lay-people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text. For else, whatsoever truth is taught them, these enemies of all truth quench it again, partly with the smoke of their bottomless pit, that is, with apparent reasons of sophistry and traditions of their own making, founded without ground of scripture; and partly in juggling with the text, expounding it in such sense as is impossible to gather of the text, if thou see the process, order and meaning thereof.” Of the conviction at which he had thus arrived, he says, “This thing only moved me to translate the new Testament. “ Wicliffe had done this a hundred and fifty years before; but as his version had never been printed, it had never been procurable at such a price as was not out of the reach of the poor; and even such yeomen as were persecuted for reading or possessing it, appear from the records of their examinations to have been rarely possessors of more than a single gospel, or of one or two epistles. Wicliffe’s version had also this considerable defect, that whereas there was no person in Oxford, in his days, who knew any thing of Greek, he could only translate from the Latin Vulgate; and had consequently incorporated all its erroneous renderings into his text. But besides this, the unsettled state of language, in out’ illiterate nation, had already made Wicliffe’s English to be among the things which were passing away. ‘The ghiftis and the clepyng of God ben without forthynkyng,’ or ‘He made us saaf bi waisshchyng of aghenbigetyng and aghen newing,’ (Wicliffe’s version of Rein. 11:29, and Tit. in. 5), would scarcely have been intelligible to Tyndale’s contemporaries, and would have sounded painfully uncouth to the next generation. As a man therefore who knew, and was determined to increase his knowledge, of tongues which had been out of Wicliffe’s reach, Tyndale resolved to make a version of his own; and to begin a work whose least’ merit it is that it has given the English tongue a fixedness, not unlikely to prove such as has been without precedent among the languages of the earth.
With this resolution Tyndale resigned his post in the family of Sir John Walsh; saying to him, “Sir, I perceive I shall not be suffered to tarry long in this country, neither shall you be able, though you would, to keep me out of the hands of the spiritualty; and also what displeasure might grow thereby to you, by keeping me, God knoweth, for which I should be right sorry. “ His patron seems to have acquiesced in this view of the case; and as Tyndale had given such credit to Erasmus’ flattering description of the learning and liberality of Tonstal, then bishop of London, as to believe that he would not be unwilling to patronize a laborious scholar, and might even sanction his translating the scriptures, it was agreed between them that Tyndale should repair to London; and that sir John should give him a letter of introduction to his friend sir Henry Guildford, controuler of the royal household, and known to be in great favor with the king, that so he might be recommended to the bishop’s patronage from an influential quarter. To London accordingly he went; and he carried with him an oration of Isocrates, which, says he, “I had translated out of Greek into English, as undeniable evidence of his having made such progress in scholarship as was still exceedingly rare.
The courtier received the simple-hearted scholar with kindness; and after speaking for him to the bishop of London at his request, sir Henry advised him to write a letter in his own name to the bishop, and to be himself the bearer of it. He complied with this advice, and found an old acquaintance in the bishop’s household; so that every thing seemed to conspire, thus far, to his obtaining the patronage he desired. “But God,” says Tyndale, “which knoweth what is within hypocrites, saw that I was beguiled, and that that counsel was not the next way to my purpose; and therefore he gat me no favor in my lord’s sight. Whereupon my lord answered me, His house was full; he had more than he could well find, and advised me to Seek in London, where, he said, I could not lack a service. And so in London I abode almost a year; and marked the course of the world; and heard our praters, I would say our preachers, how they boasted themselves and their high authority; and beheld the pomp of our prelates; and understood at the last not only that there was no room in my lord of London’s palace to translate the new Testament, but also that there was no place to do it in all England, as experience doth now openly declare.”
In this statement, which Tyndale made public in 1530, by introducing it into the preface to his translation of the Pentateuch, he took care to say nothing about the generous merchant, Humfrey Munmouth, in whose sight the Lord had given him fay our in the hour of his need; for he well knew that were he then to express his obligation to that liberal patron of poor scholars, he should be furnishing the popish party with fresh motives and grounds for doing his benefactor still farther injury. In 1523 Tyndale could sojourn in London, seeking for a source of maintenance which would not interfere with his proposed task, and at the same time administering the bread of life from parochial pulpits. But by the spring of 1528 his name bad become so odious to men whose eyes could not bear that great light which his labors were pouring in upon a people who had long walked in darkness, that the suspicion of befriending him had subjected Munmonth’s papers to an inquisitorial search, and Munmouth himself to imprisonment in the Tower, as well as to an unrighteous attempt to make him criminate himself, by his answers to interrogatories extending beyond what his accusers knew of what they would account his guilt.
According to a document first published by Strype from Foxe’s MSS., “twenty-four articles were ministered against Munmouth,” containing the following accusations: “That thou hast favored, helped, and given exhibitions to such persons as went about to translate into English, or to make erroneous books out of holy scripture: and chiefly to sir William Hochin, otherwise called sir William Tyndal, priest, and to friar Roye, sometime Observant, and now in apostasy, or to either of them.” “Item, That thou wast privy and of counsel that the said sir W. Hochin, otherwise called Tyndal, and friar Roye, or either of them, went into Almayne to Luther, there to study and learn his sect; and didst help them with money at their departing hence, or since. Item, That thou wast privy and of counsel, or hast given help thereto, that the new Testament was translated into English by sir William Hochin or Tyndal, and friar Roye, and printed and brought into this realm, as well with glosses as without glosses. Item, That after they were openly forbidden, as being full of errors, thou hast had, read, and kept them. Item, That thou hast had, and yet hast, certain other works full of errors, translated into English, sent unto thee, by the said sir W. Tyndal, or Hochin. “ Under these charges, the charitable merchant was fain to beg forgiveness and mercy in very humble terms; and to indite a petition from his prison to cardinal Wolsey, and the king’s other counsellors, in which he tells his tale as follows. “The fourteenth day of May,  sir Thomas More, knight, and sir William Kingston, knight, of the king’s noble council, sent for me unto sir John Dauncy’s; and there they examined me, ‘What letters and books I received lately from beyond the seas;’ and I said, ‘None,’ nor never had of truth. And, ‘What exhibition I did give to any body beyond the seas?’ I said, ‘None, in three years past.’ And examined me, ‘Whether I was acquainted with many persons;’ of the which I was acquainted with none of them, to my knowledge and remembrance. I told them, ‘In four years past I did give unto a priest called sir William Tyndal, otherwise called Hotchens.’ And then sir Thomas More and sir William Kingston had me home to my house, and searched it; and saw all the letters and books in my house: and there they found no letters that they regarded, nor English books, but five or six printed, the which they regarded not; and they left them with me as they found them. From thence I went again to sir John Dauncy’s, my special good master; he brought me the same day to the Tower of London, and delivered me unto sir Edmonde Walsyngham, knight, and lieutenant of the Tower.” “Upon four years and a half past and more, I heard the foresaid sir William preach two or three sermons at St Dunstan’s in the west, in London; and after that I chanted to meet with him, and with communication I examined what living he had. He said, ‘he had none at all; but he trusted to be with my lord of London, in his service.’ And therefore I had the better fantasy to him. Afterward he went to my lord and spake to him, as he told me, and my lord answered him,’ That he had chaplains enough;’ and he said to him, ‘That he would have no more at that time.’ And so the priest came to me again, and besought me to help him, and so I took him into my house half a year; and there he lived like a good priest, as methought. He studied most part of the day and of the night at his book; and he would eat but sodden meat, by his good will, nor drink but small single beer. I never saw him wear linen about him, in the space he was with me. I did promise him ten pounds sterling, to pray for my father and mother, their souls, and all Christian souls. I did pay it him, when he made his exchange to Hamborough.
Afterward he got, of some other men, ten pound sterling more, the which he left with me. And within a year after he sent for his ten pounds to me from Hamborough, and thither I sent it him by one Hans Collenbeke. And since I have never sent him the value of one penny, nor never will. I have given more exhibitions to scholars, in my days, than to that priest. Mr.. doctor Royston, chaplain to my lord of London, hath cost me more than forty or fifty pounds sterling. The foresaid sir William left me an English book, called Enchiridion. Also I had a little treatise that the priest sent me, when he sent for his money. When I heard my lord of London preach at Paul’s Cross, that sir William Tyndale had translated the new Testament in English, and was naughtily translated, that was the first time that ever I suspected or knew any evil by him. And shortly after, all the letters and treatises that he sent me, with divers copies of books that my servant did write, and the sermons that the priest did make at St Dunstan’s, I did burn them in my house. He that did write them did see it. I did burn them for fear of the translator, more than for any ill that I knew by them.” Subscribed, “Your poor prisoner and beedman, at your grace’s pleasure. Humfrye Munmouthe, draper of London. “ It is from the date of this petition, and the period of time mentioned in it, corrected by Tyndale’s mention of the time he passed in London, that his biographers have been led to fix upon the autumn of 1523, as the date of his application for Tonstal’s patronage; and that of 1524, when he was about forty years of age, as the time of his quitting England for Hamburgh, to see his beloved native land no more.
At Hamburgh Tyndale would find that the burghers had recently resolved to renounce the pope’s authority; and that one Kempe, previously a Franciscan friar, had been invited from Rostoc to preach the gospel to them. He would also find that, whereas the Jews had been expelled from England so long ago as 1279, they were numerous enough in that free commercial city, to have some among them well versed in their ancient tongue. These circumstances had probably induced him to direct his course thither. For whilst there is no trust-worthy evidence that either of the English universities contained any person capable of giving him any instruction in Hebrew, when he was studying within their precincts, we discover from his ‘Mammon,’ that three years had not elapsed from his reaching Hamburgh, before he could make such remarks as prove that he had by that time acquired a considerable insight into some remarkable peculiarities in the Hebrew language.
Foxe says, that at Tyndale’s “first departing out of the realm, he took his journey into the further parts of Germany, as into Saxony, where he had conference with Luther, and other learned men in those quarters. Where after that he had continued a certain season, he came down from thence into the Netherlands, and had his most abiding in the town of Antwerp, until the time of his apprehension.” But by this very meagre sketch the worthy martyrologist only shews what scanty information he had received respecting Tyndale’s proceedings abroad. His belief that Tyndale sought out Luther, had probably no better ground than that he was unaware of any reason for discrediting sir Thomas More. It was boldly affirmed in his Dialogue, and probably introduced into the charges against Munmouth, to raise the greater prejudice against Tyndale. It was to disparage his new Testament that sir Thomas said, “at the time of this translation Hychens was with Luther in Wittemberg, and set certain glosses in the margin, framed for the setting forth of that ungracious sect.” “The confederacy between Luther and him is a thing well known, and plainly confessed by such as have been taken, and convicted here of heresy, coming from them.”
Dial. B. iii. ch. viii. But we shall see, in Tyndale’s answer, that he replies, speaking of the confederacy, “This is not truth;” and whilst nothing drops from him indicative of his having ever seen Luther, the language of Munmouth makes it more reasonable to conclude, that he “abode in Hamburgh” till he had exhausted Munmouth’s gift of ten pounds, (a sum equivalent to £150 at present,) and had received his second supply.
It is also observable that, when Tyndale sent for this last sum, he transmitted to Munmouth “a little treatise,” which his kind patron was afterwards afraid to keep, and took good care not to name. This ‘little treatise’ was very probably ‘The examination of William Thorpe before Archbishop Arundel,’ of which Foxe has said: “This history was first set forth and corrected by M. William Tyndale, who did somewhat alter and amend the English thereof, and frame it after our manner, yet not fully in all words, but that something did remain savoring of the old speech of that time,” viz. about 1407. “For the more credit of the matter,” adds Foxe, “I rather wished it in his own natural speech, wherein it was first written.”
But though unable to procure the use of a copy “in its own old English,” for insertion in his ‘Acts and Monuments,’ he says, “Master Whitehead, yet alive, had seen the true antient copy in the hands of George Constantine.”
The value of this publication, as an exposure of the weakness of the usual arguments in defense of popery, is attested by Sir Thomas More’s giving it a place in his list of the “abominable books of Tyndale and his fellows, brought into this realm, and kept in huker muker, by some shrewd masters that keep them for no good. “ At any rate, nothing is known of any other treatise, either composed or prepared for the press by Tyndale during his sojourn in Hamburgh; but we have good ground for believing that he there completed what was of more value than any treatise, namely, the first portion of God’s own holy word that had ever passed through the press in the English tongue. For that Tyndale had printed, and put into circulation, his version of St Matthew’s gospel, and after it his version of Mark, before printing his entire New Testament, which last was in the press in 1525, may be gathered from the joint testimonies of a friend and an enemy. In Foxe’s account of Frith, he has said that “William Tyndale, placing himself in Germany, did there first translate the gospel of St Matthew into English, and after that the whole New Testament.” And Robert Ridley, uncle to the martyr, but a bitter enemy to the reformation, writing in Feb. 1527 to Henry Golde, a chaplain of Abp. Warham, twice mentions, with strong expressions of abhorrence, “the first print of Matthew and Mark,” as translated by Tyndale. And lastly a humble reader of the scriptures, being examined before Bishop Tonstal in 1528, was brought to confess that he had been in possession, two years before, of “the gospel of Matthew and Mark in English, and certain of Paul’s epistles after the old translation; “ by which epithet he would be understood to mean that the epistles were of Wicliffe’s version, though the two gospels were of that more recent version which every one, by that time, knew that Tyndale had made.
The next place in which we have undeniable evidence of Tyndale’s sojourning is Cologne; where he would know that there were enterprising printers accustomed to prepare publications for the English market. To the same city came John Cochlaeus, an indefatigable assailant of Luther, who had recently been compelled for that reason to quit Frankfort, where he had possessed a benefice. It is from a controversial pamphlet of this champion of popery, published some years later, that we gain the following account of his discovering Tyndale and an associate in Cologne, in 1525; and how they were employed. “Two English apostates,” says he, “who had been some while at Wittenberg, were in hopes that all the people of England would shortly become Lutherans, with or without the king’s consent, through the instrumentality of Luther’s New Testament, which they had translated into English. They had already come to Cologne, that they might secretly transmit their so translated testament from thence into England, under cover of other goods, as soon as the printers should have multiplied it into many thousand copies. Such was their confidence of success, that they had begun with asking the printers to strike off an impression of 6,000 copies; but the printers, rather fearing that they might be subjected to a very heavy loss, if anything should turn out unfavorably, had only put 3,000 to the press. At this time, Cochlaeus having become better known to the Cologne printers, and more familiar with them, he sometimes heard them boast over their cups, in a confident manner, that whether the king and cardinal of England might wish it or not, all England would shortly be Lutheran. tie heard also that there were two Englishmen lurking there, learned men, skillful in languages and fluent, whom however he could never see nor converse with. Having, therefore, invited certain printers to his inn, one of them revealed to him in more private discourse, after they were treated with wine, the secret method by which England was to be drawn over to the side of Luther; namely, that three thousand copies of the Lutheran New Testament were in the press, and were already advanced as far as the letter K, in the signature of the sheets, and that ample payment was supplied by English merchants, who were to carry off the work secretly, as soon as it should be printed, and would clandestinely disperse it through all England, before the king or the cardinal could discover or prohibit it. Cochlaeus, being inwardly affected by fear and wonder, disguised his grief under the appearance of admiration. But afterwards considering with himself the magnitude of the grievous danger, he cast in his mind by what method he might speedily obstruct these very wicked attempts. He went, therefore, secretly to Herman Rincke, a patrician of Cologne and knight, familiar both with the emperor and the king of England, and a councillor, and disclosed to him the whole affair, as by the good help of the wine it had become known to him. That all these things might be the better proved, Rincke sent another person to search the house where the work was printing, according to Cochlaeus’ information.
When he had ascertained from that man that the matter was even so, and that there was a vast quantity of paper there, he went to the senate of the city and procured a prohibition against the printer’s proceeding any farther in that work. Upon this, the two English apostates fled, carrying off in haste the quarto sheets already printed, and sailed up the Rhine to Worms, where the people were in the full fury of Lutheranism, that what had been begun might be completed there by the help of another printer. Rincke and Cochlaeus, however, immediately sent advice by letter to the king, the cardinal, and the bishop of Rochester [Fisher], that they might make provision with the greater diligence, lest that most pernicious article of merchandise should be conveyed into all the ports of England. “ Cochlaeus’ assertions respecting the previous sojourn of these two Englishmen at Wittemberg, and their hope to see their countrymen become Lutherans, as also that the new Testament which they were printing was a translation from Luther’s, cannot reasonably pass for any thing more than artful figures of speech, suited to the purpose of a writer whose express object, in the work from which the above is an extract, was to make out that every thing of a tendency injurious to his church might be traced to Luther as its odious source. On the other hand, whereas Cochlaeus says that the Englishmen were spoken of as skillful in languages, we are enabled to add a specification of the languages known by Tyndale at this time; for this extent of knowledge is only affirmed of one of the two by our next witness, who tells of what he heard from a friendly quarter about a twelvemonth later.
It is in the diary of Spalatinus, the secretary of Frederic, elector of Saxony and the friend of Luther, that the following entry occurs: “Busche told us that six thousand copies of the new Testament in the English tongue had been printed at Worms; and that this translation had been made by an Englishman, sojourning there with two other natives of Britain, who was so skilled in seven languages, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, and Dutch, that whichever he might be speaking, you would think it to be his native tongue. f38 It would appear that Tyndale either expected or heard, that the steps taken by Cochlaeus would make it peculiarly difficult to effect the introduction of his new Testament into the English ports, if it should be seen at once to answer to the description of the volume he had been detected in preparing at Cologne. For when he got to Worms, he suspended the completion of that edition, which was in 4to, with a doctrinal preface and instructive marginal notes, and betook himself to printing his version anew in a much smaller form, containing nothing but the inspired text, except that a short address to the reader was appended to its close, without giving the translator’s name. The English merchants and other friends were consequently enabled to fulfill their promises, of importing it and procuring its circulation; and its sale seems to have been such as encouraged the printers to undertake the completion of the 4to edition without further delay.
Such a flowing in of the word of God, in a tongue understood by the people, could not however be long concealed from its enemies. On Sunday the 11th of February, 1526, cardinal Wolsey went to St Paul’s, attended by six and thirty bishops, abbots, and priors, to see great baskets full of books cast into a fire, before the large crucifix at its northern gate, whilst bishop Fisher preached his noted sermon on the occasion; and Tyndale tells us, that in this fire they burnt copies of his version of the word of God.
As the year advanced, Luther’s letter of apology, for his previous rough reply to the king’s book against him, provoked Henry to a rejoinder, in which he said to his subjects, Luther “fell in device with one or two lewd persons, born in this our realm, for the translating of the new Testament into English, as well with many corruptions of that holy text, as certain prefaces and other pestilent glosses in the margins, for the advancement and setting forth of his abominable heresies, intending to abuse the good minds and devotion that you, our dearly beloved people, bear toward the holy Scripture, and infect you with the deadly corruption and contagious odor of his pestilent errors. In the avoiding whereof we, of our special tender zeal towards you, have, with the deliberate advice of the most reverend father in God, Thomas, lord cardinal, legate a latere of the see apostolic, archbishop of York, primate, and our chancellor of this realm, and other reverend fathers of the spirituality, determined the said untrue translations to be burned, with farther sharp correction and punishment against the keepers and readers of the same.”
The ready reception and the influence of Tyndale’s testaments are distinctly declared in a charge addressed by Cuthbert Tonstal, then bishop of London, to his archdeacons, wherein he says: “Maintainers of Luther’s sect, blinded through extreme wickedness, wandering from the way of truth and the catholic faith, have translated the new Testament into our English tongue, intermingling therewith many heretical articles and erroneous opinions, pernicious and offensive, seducing the simple people: — of the which translation there are many books imprinted, some with glosses and some without, containing in the English tongue that pestiferous and most pernicious poison, dispersed throughout all our diocese in great number. Wherefore we, Cuthbert, willing to withstand the craft and subtilty of the ancient enemy and his ministers, do straitly command you to warn all dwelling within your archdeaconries, that under pain of excommunication and incurring the suspicion of heresy they do bring in and deliver up all and singular such books as contain the translation of the new Testament in the English tongue “ On the 3rd of November, Archbishop Warham issued a mandate of similar tenor; so that by that date all authority in England, both lay and spiritual, was publicly committed to oppose the circulation of the new Testament, as translated by Tyndale.
All that could be done at home seemed, however, insufficient to Wolsey; and under his guidance Henry sent letters to the princess-regent of the Netherlands, and to the governor of the English merchants at Antwerp; and the cardinal wrote by the same messenger to Sir John Hackett, the king’s agent at the regent’s court, urging all these parties to concur in taking measures for the destruction of books intended to poison the king’s subjects. Hackett presented the king’s letter to the regent on the 17th of November, and assured the cardinal that his desire should be accomplished: but when he had discovered that English testaments not only passed through Antwerp for exportation, but were actually printed there, as a commercial speculation, by one Christopher Endhoven, the burgesses of that free city stood upon their privileges, and refused to consider Endhoven’s publication as heretical. Hackett tells Wolsey all this, in a letter written in January 1527; and confesses at its close, that if the cardinal would have Tyndale’s testaments burnt, it might be necessary to commission some one to buy them. The cardinal was too shrewd to do this; but archbishop Warham informed his suffragans, by letters dated May 26, 1527, that he “had lately gotten into his hands all the books of the new Testament, translated into English and printed beyond the seas,” at the cost of £66. 9s . 4d., a sum equivalent to nearly £1000 at the present time.
The consequence was, that before the end of the summer another Antwerp printer, Christopher Van Ruremund, had struck off a fourth edition of Tyndale’s New Testament; and a dearth in England compelling the cardinal to remove all restraints on the importation of corn from Flanders facilitated the clandestine introduction of the bread of life.
By this time Tyndale had published that Prologue to the Epistle to the Romans, which will be found in his works, but which came forth anonymously; whilst his next work, the Treatise on the Parable of the Wicked Mammon, was accompanied with an avowal, that he was both its author and the translator of the proscribed testaments. The Treatise on the Obedience of a Christian Man speedily followed. Having done so much to expose himself to the rage of the dominant church, Tyndale seems to have thought it prudent to dwell no longer in that great commercial thoroughfare, the valley of the Rhine. He therefore quitted Worms for the secluded town of Marburg in Hesse; where his admirer, Von Busche, had just accepted a professorship under the patronage of the protestant landgrave.
In so doing, we can now see that he was led aright; for what was secretly devised in the chambers of princes has now been, as it were, proclaimed on house-tops by the recent publication of state papers, and the facility of access allowed to what is yet unprinted. From such documents, Mr..
Anderson has produced evidence, under their own signatures, that Wolsey was directing Hackett to request the regent of the Netherlands to deliver Tyndale and Roye into his hands; and that this obsequious agent was suggesting to the cardinal to lay the charge of treason against an English merchant, Richard Harman, who was but guilty of transmitting Tyndale’s testaments from Antwerp, because, though the charge were false, the lords of Antwerp might hold themselves bound by treaty to surrender any person thus charged to the king of England. Providentially, Wolsey’s doubledealing had at this time given such cause of offense to the emperor, that his requests had no influence with him, nor with his aunt the princess-regent.
But he is found employing other agency; sending John West, an Observant of Greenwich, to hunt out Roye, once a friar in the same monastery, with whom he supposed Tyndale to be still associated; and writing to Herman Rincke to search for the men who had once fled before him, and for the books whose issue from the press he had stopped for a while. West and Hackett traveled hither and thither, only to be disappointed and to be chargeable to their employer; whilst Rincke searched the commercial cities, and though he found some of the proscribed books, could gain no tidings of the place of Tyndale’s retreat. He says in his reply to Cardinal Wolsey: “The letters of your grace were sent to me from Cologne to Frankfort, respecting the buying up, everywhere, books printed in the English language, and the apprehension of Roye and Hutchyns: but neither they nor their accomplices have been seen at the fairs of Frankfort since Easter; nor has their printer, Scheft of Strasburgh, confessed that he knows whither they have vanished. Since receiving your commands, I have spared neither my person, money, nor diligence. By using a license formerly obtained from the emperor, and by gifts and presents, I have gained over the Frankfort consuls, and some senators and judges, so that in three or four places I was enabled to collect and pack up all the books. The printed books are still in my possession, except two copies, which I gave to your diligent and faithful agent, John West, for the use of the king’s grace and yours. If I had not found these books and interfered, they would have been pressed together in paper packages, and inclosed in ten sacks craftily covered over with flax; and thus unsuspected they would have been sent across the seas into Scotland and England, and would have been sold as if they were but clean paper: but I think that very few or none of them have been carried away or sold. I shall also take most diligent care as to the foresaid Roye and Hutchyns, both as to apprehending them, and detecting the places they frequent. I lately brought the printer Schott before the consuls, senators, and judges of Frankfort; and I compelled him on his oath to confess how many such books he had printed in the English language, the German, or any other. Being thus put to his oath, he said that in the English tongue he had printed only one thousand of six sheets folded in quartos, and besides one thousand of nine sheets folded likewise; and this by the order of Roye and Hutchyns, who wanting money were not able to pay for the books printed, and much less for printing them in other languages. Wherefore I have purchased almost all of them, and now have them in my house at Cologne.”
This zealous promoter of the cardinal’s views takes care to suggest in the same letter, that such a diploma as would authorize him to act more efficiently, both in the king’s cause and his own, should be obtained from the emperor Charles V.; and that “Roye, Tyndale, and Jerome Barlow and their adherents, ought to be apprehended, punished, and carried off, to destroy the Lutheran heresy, and to confirm the christian faith. “ But whilst these toils and projects of rulers and of the children of this world could effect so little of what they desired, their own language tells how the benefits of this faithful servant’s labor of love were extending beyond the bounds of his native land.
We have just seen Rincke declaring that if he had not bribed the magistrates of Frankfort, and by their means compelled a printer to let him purchase what remained in his hands of Tyndale’s works, they would have been sent to purchasers in Scotland, as well as in England. And in an earlier letter from Hackett to cardinal Wolsey, dated from Mechlin, Feb. 20, 1526-7, he tells him that he had advertised the king’s secretary, Mr.. Brian Tuke, that “there were divers merchants of Scotland that bought many of such like books” (and the books he is speaking of are Tyndale’s New Testament), “and took them into Scotland; a part to Edinburgh, and most part to the town of St Andrew’s. For the which cause,” says Hackett, “when I was at Barrow, being advertised that the Scottish ships were in Zealand, (for there the said books were laden,) I went suddenly thitherward, thinking, if I had found such stuff there, that I would cause to make as good a fire of them as there has been of the remnant in Brabant; but fortune would not that I should be in time, for the foresaid ships were departed a day before my coming.”
In March, 1528, bishop Tonstal had granted to Sir Thomas More a licence to have and to use these heretical books, as he was pleased to style them, which being in the English tongue had been imported into the realm, that he might “get himself an immortal name and eternal glory in heaven,” by exposing “the crafty malice” of their authors; and that, as one able to “play the Demosthenes in the English tongue,” he might make the prelates “more prompt against those wicked supplanters of the church. “ Thus eulogised and summoned into the field by his diocesan, More commenced a series of controversial attacks against Tyndale, which he was tempted to continue till they filled several hundred folio pages. Tyndale himself the mean while was laboring at his translation of the books of Moses from the Hebrew, though he is also supposed to have printed a tract “On Matrimony” about this period: and he is now reputed to be the author of an “Exposition of 1 Corinthians 7.” the printer’s colophon to which is said to end as follows, “at Malborowe, in the land of Hesse, 1529, 20 day of June, by me Hans Luff.” As the same printer finished an edition of “The Revolution of Antichrist” for Tyndale’s associate Frith on the 12th of the following month, it is probable that they were both still at Marburg in July. By that time Sir Thomas More, bishop Tonstal, and Hackett, had taken their place amongst the diplomatists assembled at Cambray; where the princess-regent of the Netherlands and the mother of Francis I. were met to arrange the terms of a peace between the French monarch and the emperor Charles V. Our king’s envoys were not forgetting Tyndale there.
The treaty between the two contending potentates was signed on the 5th of August, and then the Englishmen induced the princess-regent to consent to a treaty with Henry VIII., by which the two contracting parties bound themselves, among other things, to prohibit the printing or selling “any Lutheran books,” as they styled every and papal publication, within their respective territories. f48 On their way home from Cambray, the English ministers found in Antwerp a London merchant, named Augustine Packington, a favorer of Tyndale, but one who took care to conceal that inclination from the ruling powers.
According to the current tale, adopted by Foxe and the contemporary chronicler Hall, bishop Tonstal talked with this merchant about the new testaments, and said how gladly he would buy up all the copies: to which Packington replied, that if his lordship would indeed be responsible for the price, he would himself lay down the necessary sum; and would assure him of getting every copy into his hands, as far as they were yet unsold. The tale proceeds to state, that the bishop gladly commissioned him so to do; and that Packington went forthwith to Tyndale, then also in Antwerp, and said to him, “William, I know thou art a poor man, and hast a heap of new testaments and books by thee, for which thou hast both endangered thy friends and beggared thyself; and I have now gotten thee a merchant, which, with ready money, shall dispatch thee of all that thou hast, if thou think it profitable. The merchant is the bishop of London.” Tyndale is then represented as saying, that he was glad of this, as the burning of his Testaments would but bring odium on the person who could cast the scriptures into the fire; whilst the price would relieve his wants, and enable him to bring out a more correct edition; “and so, upon compact made between them, the bishop of London had the books, Packington had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money.” These last are Foxe’s words; and he presently adds, that at a subsequent examination of George Constantine, who was charged with promoting the sale of heretical books, More learnt from him that the bishop of London’s money had been a “succor and comfort” to more than one of Tyndale’s abettors; and that More then remarked, “By my troth, I think even the same; for so much I told the bishop before he went about it.”
Strange as it seems that Tonstal should have spent money ,pen a repetition of archbishop Warham’s unwise expedient for the suppression of a publication, which the press could speedily re-issue, the above account receives confirmation from Hall’s chronicle of the following year; where he tells how “the bishop of London caused all his new Testaments which he had bought, with many other books, to be burnt openly in St Paul’s church-yard, in the month of May. And whereas the date of the treaty of Cambray proves that the negotiators could not have left that city till some days after the 5th of August, (which allows time for Tyndale’s removing from Marburg to Antwerp, before they would reach the latter city on their way to England,) there were contemporary transactions which would doubtless dispose Tyndale to quit Marburg about that time. For in August the Landgrave of Hesse was urging Luther and Zuingle to meet at Marburg f50 for the purpose of discussing their different views respecting the manner of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s supper; and we shall find Tyndale expressing to Frith, at a later date, his anxiety not to intermeddle with that controversy unnecessarily.
It is as a digression from his narrative of other matters that Foxe has given his readers this anecdote: and he makes no reference to it in his subsequent professed account of the life of Tyndale; where indeed not an event is related of what really betel him, from the mention of his first arrival in Germany, till we come to the following: “At what time Tyndale had translated the fifth book of Moses, called Deuteronomium, minding to print the same at Hamborough, he sailed thitherward; where by the way, upon the coast of Holland, he suffered shipwreck, by which he lost all his books, writings, and copies, and so was compelled to begin all anew, to his hindrance and doubling of his labors. Thus having lost by that ship both money, his copies, and his time, he came in another ship to Hamborough, where at his appoint-merit master Coverdale tarried for him, and helped him in the translating of the whole five books of Moses, from Easter till December, in the house of a worshipful widow, Mrs.. Margaret Van Emmetson, anno 1529, a great sweating sickness being at the time in the town. So having dispatched his business at Hamborough, he returned afterward to Antwerp again.”
As Foxe and Coverdale were contemporary London clergy for nearly ten years, in the reign of Elizabeth, Foxe had doubtless heard this account from Coverdale; but with that great liability to a mistake about dates, which necessarily attends any recital, from memory, of things long past. The date assigned to Tyndale’s second sojourn at Hamburgh should have been 1530.
After visiting Antwerp at the close of the summer of 1529, he had returned to Marburg; and on the 17th of January, 1530, Hans Luft completed for him the printing of his translation of Genesis. It was from the press of the same Marburg printer that his polemic treatise, entitled ‘The Practice of Prelates,’ came forth shortly after. In the mean while the risk of sending packages of proscribed books down the Rhine, for exportation to England, had been greatly increased by the severity of the emperor’s edict against the favorers of heresy in any part of his hereditary dominions. It might be expected that this would not prevent Tyndale from endeavoring to send off some copies of his Genesis without delay; and we accordingly find his enemies soon declaring that such had reached England. But in his new difficulty he would naturally remember Hamburgh, a seaport, where he could have the help of learned Jews in proceeding with the old Testament, and where Bugenhagius of Pomerania, whose address to the faithful in England was joined in the same prohibitory list with his own works, had recently accepted an invitation to instruct its citizens. There was time enough for his communicating with Coverdale, and for the events mentioned by Foxe, between his quitting Marburg and Easter Sunday, which in 1530 was as late as April 17th. His first work on reaching Hamburgh would have been the printing of Deuteronomy; and to retranslate, and then print it, seems to have been still his first work there.
For whereas after a convocation which closed December 24th, 1529, the bishops procured from Henry a proclamation enjoining the chief officers of state and all magistrates to do their part towards bringing to punishment the writers, printers, importers, distributors, and possessors of any book then made, or which should thereafter be made, against the catholic faith; the list of such books, which was appended to that proclamation a few months later, enumerates amongst them, The Practice of Prelates, Genesis, and Deuteronomy; whilst the other portions of Tyndale’s translation of the Pentateuch do not seem to be noticed in any hostile document before the summer of 1531. f53 But farther, when all the portions of the Pentateuch were put into circulation, there was a striking peculiarity in the typography of the volume. For whilst the Genesis is in the black letter, Exodus and Leviticus are in the Roman character, but the book of Numbers is again in the same black letter type as the Genesis; and lastly, Deuteronomy is once more in the same Roman character as Exodus. And not one of these portions contains any notice of when, where, or by whom, it was printed, except the book of Genesis; at the end of which is the colophon already mentioned as its date; viz. “Emprented at Marlborow in the land of Hesse by me Hans Luft, the yere of our Lorde mdxxx., the xvii. dayes of Januarii. “ The simplest way of accounting for this irregularity leads us to the inference, that when Tyndale quitted Marburg with some uncertainty as to whether he should find it expedient to sojourn long at Hamburgh, he left behind him copies of Genesis printed there, and perhaps Numbers still in the press, taking away with him only such books and manuscripts as were to aid him in continuing his work. All he took away with him he lost by the shipwreck. But when settled at Hamburgh, he would send for Genesis and Numbers, and bind them up along with those other books of the Pentateuch, which he got printed at the Hamburgh press.
Tyndale’s ‘Practice of ‘Prelates’ is a continued setting forth of reasons and motives which should induce princes to resume authority over ecclesiastics, and to humble the usurping hierarchy; and as Cromwell was now gaining influence with Henry VIII. by suggesting means of replenishing the royal treasury, which the prelates must be expected to thwart, unless their power were broken down, he would doubtless take care that the king should see this treatise; as he had seen, and expressed a momentary approbation of what was said on the same subject in Tyndale’s treatise on The Obedience. We accordingly find that the king became bent on ascertaining whether the hope of being permitted to return to England in safety, and perhaps with honor, might not induce Tyndale to write as he should wish against the pope’s supremacy, and on the duty of suppressing monasteries; and to write no more than he should wish on other topics. It is probable that Coverdale, who looked up to Cromwell as a patron, had been directed by that rising statesman to put himself in communication with Tyndale for a similar purpose. And now Mr.. Stephen Vaughan, a new envoy to the princess-regent of the Netherlands, selected by Cromwell, was instructed by the king not to attempt procuring the seizure of Tyndale, like his predecessors, but to employ promises of some kind or other, to persuade him to throw himself on the king’s mercy. This appears in Vaughan’s letter to the king, dated Barrugh, Jan. 26, 1530; wherein he says, “I have written three sundry letters unto William Tyndale, and the same sent for the more safety to three sundry places, to Frankforde, Hanborughe, and Marleborugh, I then not being assured in which of the same he was.” He proceeds to say, “I had very good hope that he would, upon the promise of your majesty and of your most gracious safe conduct, be content to repair and come into England.” The sentence goes on with such inextricable confusion as sufficiently indicates the embarrassment of the writer, in coming to an avowal of a fear likely to offend his willful sovereign, which he at last states as follows, “that now the bruit and fame of such things as, since my writing to him hath chanced within your realm, shall provoke the man not only to be minded to the contrary of that whereunto I had thought without difficulty to have easily brought him, but also to suspect my persuasions to be made to his more peril and danger than, as I think, if he were placed before you, he should ever have need to fear.” The things which had chanced within the realm were, doubtless, the arrest of John Tyndale, and the heavy fine laid upon him for sending five marks to his brother William beyond the sea, and for receiving and keeping with him certain letters from his said brother. f60 It appears from the same letter of Vaughan to the king, that he had previously informed Henry of Tyndale’s having prepared for the press an Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue. Vaughan at the same time sent Cromwell a copy of Tyndale’s reply to his letter; and says to his patron confidentially, “The man is of a greater knowledge than the king’s highness doth take him for; which well appeareth by his works. Would God he were in England! f61 Three months more had not passed away, ere this envoy of the king of England had a conversation with Tyndale, who appeared before him as unexpectedly as Elijah shewed himself to Obadiah. The account of their interview is given by Vaughan, in a letter to the king, in which he says: “The day before the date hereof I spake with Tyndale without the town of Antwerp, and by this means: he sent a certain person to seek me, whom he had advised to say that a certain friend of mine, unknown to the messenger, was very desirous to speak with me; praying me to take pains to go unto him, to such place as he should bring me. Then I to the messenger, ‘What is your friend, and where is he?’ ‘His name I know not,’ said he; ‘but if it be your pleasure to go where he is, I will be glad thither to bring you.’
Thus, doubtful what this matter meant, I concluded to go with him, and followed him till he brought me without the gates of Antwerp, into a field lying nigh unto the same; where was abiding me this said Tyndale. At our meeting,’ Do you not know me?’ said this Tyndale. ‘I do not well remember you,’ said I to him. ‘My name,’ said he, ‘is Tyndale.’ ‘But Tyndale!’ said I, ‘Fortunate be our meeting.’ Then Tyndale, ‘Sir, I have been exceedingly desirous to speak with you.’ ‘And I with you; what is your mind?’ ‘Sir,’ said he, ‘I am informed that the king’s grace taketh great displeasure with me for putting forth of certain books, which I lately made in these parts; but specially for the book named the Practice of Prelates; whereof I have no little marvel, considering that in it I did but warn his grace of the subtle demeanor of the clergy of his realm towards his person, and of the shameful abusions by them practiced, not a little threatening the displeasure of his grace and weal of his realm: in which doing I shewed and declared the heart of a true subject, which sought the safeguard of his royal person and weal of his commons, to the intent that his grace, thereof warned, might in due time prepare his remedy against their subtle dreams.
If [it be] for my pains therein taken, if for my poverty, if for mine exile out of my natural country, and bitter absence from my friends, if for my hunger, my thirst, my cold, the great danger wherewith I am everywhere compassed, and finally if for innumerable other hard and sharp rightings which I endure, not yet feeling of their asperity, by reason I hoped with my labors to do honor to God, true service to my prince, and pleasure to his commons; how is it that his grace, this considering, may either by himself think, or by the persuasions ‘of other be brought to think, that in this doing should not shew a pure mind, or true and incorrupt zeal and affection to his grace? Was there in me any such mind, when I warned his grace to beware of his cardinal, whose iniquity he shortly after proved according to my writing? Doth this deserve hatred? Again, may his grace, being a Christian prince, be so unkind to God, which hath commanded his word to be spread throughout the world, to give more faith to wicked persuasions of men, which presuming above God’s wisdom, and contrary to that which Christ expressly commandeth in his testament, dare say that it is not lawful for the people to have the same in a tongue that they understand; because the purity thereof should open men’s eyes to see their wickedness? Is there more danger in the king’s subjects than in the subjects of all other princes, which in every of their tongues have the same, under privilege of their sufferance? As I now am, very death were more pleasant to me than life, considering man’s nature to be such as cart bear no truth.’ “Thus, after a long conversation had between us, for my part making answer as my wit would serve me, which were too long to write, I assayed him with gentle persuasions, to know whether he would come into England; ascertaining him that means should be made, if he thereto were minded, without his peril or danger, that he might so do: and that what surety he would devise for the same purpose, should, by labor of friends, be obtained of your majesty.
But to this he answered, that he neither would nor durst come into England, albeit your grace would promise him never so much surety; fearing lest, as he hath before written, your promise made should shortly be broken, by the persuasion of the clergy, which would affirm that promises made with heretics ought not to be kept.” “After this, he told me how he had finished a work against my lord chancellor’s book, and would not put it in print till such time as your grace had seen it; because he apperceiveth your displeasure towards him, for hasty putting forth of his other work, and because it should appear that he is not of so obstinate mind as he thinks he is reported to your grace. This is the substance of his communication had with me, which as he spake I have written to your grace, word for word, as near as I could by any possible means bring to remembrance. My trust therefore is, that your grace will not but take my labors in the best part I thought necessary to be written unto your grace. After these words, he then, being something fearful of me, lest I would have pursued him, and drawing also towards night, he took his leave of me, and departed from the town, and I toward the town, saying, ‘I should shortly, peradventure, see him again, or if not, hear from him.’ Howbeit I suppose he afterward returned to the town by another way; for there is no likelihood that he should lodge without the town. Hasty to pursue him I was not, because I was in some likelihood to speak shortly again with him; and in pursuing him I might perchance have failed of my purpose, and put myself in danger. “To declare to your majesty what, in my poor judgment, I think of the man, I ascertain your grace, I have not communed with a man” — What followed has been torn off; but secretary Cromwell’s reply will shew that the opinion which Vaughan was evidently about to commence stating, of Tyndale’s character and attainments, was so favorable as to rouse the king’s anger; so that it would seem as if, whilst he thought it desirable to preserve the rest of the letter for his minister’s inspection and guidance in replying, the impatient monarch had hastily rent away that honest verdict, in favor of the man whose works he had publicly styled detestable, which told his conscience that he had been an iniquitous judge. The reply alluded to began as follows: “Stephen Vaughan, I commend me unto you; and have received your letters, dated at Andwerpe, the xviii. day of April, with also that part of Tyndale’s book inclosed in leather, which ye with your letters directed to the king’s highness; after the receipt whereof I did repair unto the court, and there presented the same unto his royal majesty, who made me answer for that time, that his highness at opportune leisure should read the contents as well of your letters as also the said hook. And at my next repair thither it pleased his highness to call for me, declaring unto me as well the contents of your letters, as also much matter contained in the said book of Tyndale.”
Here this document becomes peculiarly interesting; for the king would seem to have been so dissatisfied with that portion of it which was to appear to express the writer’s opinion of Tyndale, that Cromwell found it necessary either to proffer, or to admit, interlineated substitutions for what he had written, which make the letter a decisive evidence of the perils Tyndale was exposing himself to by his faithfulness. The power and the unflinching boldness, with which he had rebuked More’s advocacy of opinions held as obstinately by the king as by his chancellor, had doubtless added to the anger which Tyndale’s calm objections to the repudiation of Catharine must have roused in Henry’s breast. And that anger may be distinctly traced in several of those interlineations, by comparing them with the language for which they were substituted, in what follows of this dispatch; which shall be given in its old heedless spelling. “Albeit that I might well perceyue that his Maiestee was right well pleased, and right acceptablie considered your diligence and payns taken in the wryting and sending of the saide boke, as also in the perswading and exhorting of Tyndall to repayre into this realme; yet his Highness nothing lyked the sayd boke, being fyllyd wt scedycyous, slanderous lyes, and fantasticall oppynyons, shewing therin nother lernyng nor trewthe; and ferther, comunyng wt his grace, I myght well mind and conject that he thought that ye bare moche affection towards the saide Tyndall, whom in his maners and knowlage in woordlye thinge ye vndoubtedlie in yor lres do moch allowe and comende; whos works being replet wt so abhominable sclaunders and lyes, imagened and onlye fayned to infecte the peopull, doth declare hym bothe to lake grace, vertue, Lernyng, discrecyo and all other good qualytes, nothing ells pretending in all his worke but to seduce… dyssayve (that ye in such wise by yr Lres, prayse, set forth and avaunse hym which nothing ells pretendeth) and sowe sedycion among the peopull of this realme. The Kinge hignes therfor hathe comaunded me to advurtyse you that is pleasuryd that ye should desiste and leve any ferther to persuade or attempte the sayd Tyndalle to cum into this realme; alledging, that he pceyuing the malycyous, perverse, vncharytable, and Indurate mynde of the sayd Tyndall, ys in man wt owt hope of reconsylyacyon in hym, and is veray joyous to have his realme destytute of such a pson, then that he should retourne into the same, there to manyfest his errours and sedycyous opynyons, which (being out of the realme by his most vncharytable, venemous, and pestilent boke, craftie and false persuasions) he hath partelie don all redie; for his highnes right prudentlye consyderyth if he were present by all lykelohod he wold shortelie (which God defende) do as moche as in him were, to infecte and corrupt the hole realme to the grete inquietacyon and hurte of the comen welth of the same. Wherefore, Stephen, I hertelie pray you, in all your doing, procedinge, and wryting to the King’s highnes, ye do iustely, trewlie and vnfaynedlie, wt owt dyssymulatyon, shew your self his trew, louyng, and obedyent subjecte, beryng no maner favor, loue, or affeccyon to the sayd Tyndale, ne to his worke, in any man of wise; but utterlie to contempne and abhorre the same, assuring you that in so doing ye shall not onely cause the King’s royall maieste, whose goodnes at this tyme is so benignelie and gracyouslie mynded towards you, as by your good dyligence and industrie to be used to serve his Highnes, and extewing and avoyding… favor, and allow the saide Tyndale his erronyous worke and opynions so to sett you forwardes, as all yor louers and frendes shall have gret consolacyon of the same; and by the contrarie doing, ye shall acquire the indignacyon of God, displeasure of yor sov’eigne lorde, and by the same cause yo r good frends which have ben euer glad, prone, and redie to bryng you into his gracyous favors, to lamente and sorow that their sute in that behalf should be frustrate and not to take effecte, according to their good intent and purpose.”
After a little more to the like effect, Cromwell proceeds to the mention of Frith, and says that the king, “hearing tell of his towardness in good letters and learning, doth much lament that he should apply his learning to the maintaining, bolstering, and advancing the venomous and pestiferous works, erroneous and seditious opinions of Tyndale;” and that Vaughan was to counsel Frith, by the king’s desire, to withdraw from Tyndale’s society, and to return to his native country. And lastly he exhorts Vaughan himself, “for his love of God, utterly to forsake, leave, and withdraw his affection from the said Tyndale, and all his sect. “ It appears, however, that after using all this language, to comply with his sovereign’s humor, Mr. secretary Cromwell ventured to add a clause, directly contradicting the king’s declared wish, that Vaughan should desist from urging Tyndale to return to England. This clause Vaughan took care to introduce into his next letter to the king; that, if his acting in accordance with it should irritate his majesty, he might see by whose directions his conduct had been governed.
The despatch of which we are now to speak, is dated May 20, 1531. And in it Vaughan says, “Pleaseth it your royal majesty to be advertised how upon the receipt of certain instructions lately sent to me from my master, Mr.. Cromwell, at the commandment of your majesty, I immediately endeavored to learn such things as were contained in the said instructions. — I have again been in hand to persuade Tyndale. And to draw him the rather to favor my persuasions, and not to think the same feigned, I shewed him a clause contained in master Cromwell’s letter containing these words following: And notwithstanding other the premises, in this my letter contained, if it were possible, by good and wholesome exhortations, to reconcile and convert the said Tyndale from the train and affection which he now is in, and to excerpte and take away the opinions sorely rooted in him, I doubt not but the king’s highness would be much joyous of His conversion and amendment; and so being converted, if then he would return into his realm, undoubtedly the king’s royal majesty is so inclined to mercy, pity, and compassion, that he refuseth none which he seeth to submit themselves to the obedience and good order of the world. In these words I thought to be such sweetness and virtue as were able to pierce the hardest heart of the world; and, as I thought, so it came to pass. For after sight thereof I perceived the man to be exceedingly altered, and to take the same very near unto his heart, in such wise that water stood in his eyes; and he answered,’ What gracious words are these! I assure you,’ said he, ‘if it would stand with the king’s most gracious pleasure to grant only a bare text of the scripture to be put forth among his people, like as is put forth among the subjects of the emperor in these parts, and of other Christian princes, be it of the translation of what person soever shall please his majesty, I shall immediately make faithful promise never to write more, nor abide two days in these parts after the same; but immediately repair into his realm, and there most humbly submit myself at the feet of his royal majesty, offering my body to suffer what pain or torture, yea, what death his grace will, so that this be obtained. And till that time! will abide the asperity of all chances, whatsoever shall come, and endure my life in as much pains as it is able to bear and suffer. And as concerning my reconciliation, his grace may be assured, that whatsoever I may have said or written in all my life against the honor of God’s word, and so proved, the same shall I before his majesty and all the world utterly renounce and forsake; and with most humble and meek mind embrace the truth, abhorring all error soever, at the most gracious and benign request of his royal majesty, of whose wisdom, prudence and learning I hear mo great praise and commendation, than of any creature living. But if those things which I have written be true and stand with God’s word, why should his majesty, having so excellent a gift of knowledge in the scriptures, move me to do any thing against my conscience?’ — with many other words which be too long to write. I have some good hope in the man; and would not doubt to bring him to some good point, were it that something, now and then, might proceed from your majesty towards me, whereby the man might take the better comfort of my persuasions. I advertised the same Tyndale that he should not put forth the same book, till your most gracious pleasure were known: whereunto he answered, ‘mine advertisement came too late; for he feared lest one that had his copy would put it very shortly in print, which he would let if he could; if not, there is no remedy.’ I shall stay it as much as I can, as yet it is not come forth; nor will not in a while, by that I perceive. “ It was so customary for the correspondents of sovereigns to seek to make their reports acceptable, by the introduction of flattery, that Vaughan may reasonably be supposed to have added to Tyndale’s words, where he makes him give the king excessive praise. But the book, which Vaughan wished Tyndale to defer publishing, was obviously Tyndale’s Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue; and that copies of it had already got abroad in MS., has appeared from Vaughan’s success in procuring one. Their temporary associate, George Joye, has said that Frith had printed it at Amsterdam . On the 20th of November in this year, the dissemination of copies of Tyndale’s Answer to Sir Thomas More was mentioned in the sentence by which Stokesley, bishop of London, delivered over a monk of Bury, named Richard Bayfield , to the civil power, as one of the crimes for which he was to be cursed by the church and burnt in the fire . And whilst the arduous duties attached to the post of lord chancellor did not prevent More from composing a folio of 326 pages, as his ‘Confutacyon of Tyndale’s Answer,’ he was also using the authority of his office to extort such statements from persons under suspicion of heresy, as might enable him to convince the king that Vaughan was secretly a disciple of Tyndale, and that his favorable mention of Tyndale was part of a conspiracy to deceive his majesty. f73 The endeavors made under Cromwell’s influence to persuade Tyndale to come home upon conditions, were consequently brought altogether to a close; and the king resumed his previous purpose of procuring the reformer’s arrest. As for Tyndale himself, he had again shrunk into concealment; and he was again supplying his countrymen with valuable instruction, in the shape of a Prologue to the prophet Jonas, accompanied perhaps by a translation of that prophet; besides publishing ‘An exposition of the first epistle of St John.’
It was Sir Thomas Elyot, a practiced diplomatist and an accomplished scholar, who had now consented to be employed in the mean work of trepanning Tyndale, to gratify the king’s evil passions; whilst in the sight of the world he had the honorable employment of representing the English sovereign at the imperial court. On the 14th of March, 1532, he wrote from Ratisbon to the duke of Norfolk, then lord high treasurer, expressing his wish to be allowed to return to England; and he adds, “Albeit the king willeth me, by his grace’s letters, to remain at Brussels for some space of time, for the apprehension of Tyndale, which somewhat minisheth my hope of soon return; considering that like as he is in wit moveable, semblably so is his person uncertain to come by: and, as far as I can perceive, hearing of the king’s diligence in the apprehension of him, he withdraweth him into such places where he thinketh to be farthest out of danger. In me there shall lack none endeavor. “ Such was the labor which the worldling had in view; and which was to be in vain. Tyndale also kept his labor in view; but his was the service of the King of kings, and his object was to deliver captives from their bondage.
Whilst Sir Thomas Elyot mocked at his being obliged to move from place to place, he was continuing the work of translating the Hebrew scriptures; and also composing and printing an Exposition of Matthew, chapters v. vi. and vii.; or, in other words, Lectures on our Lord’s sermon on the mount.
Nor was Tyndale’s labor in vain; for we find an unwilling witness, Sir Thomas More, giving the following testimony to the extensive circulation of Tyndale’s writings, at this time, in his native country, and of the zeal with which his labors were seconded. “There be fled out of this realm for heresy,” says he, “a few ungracious folk; what manner folk, their writing and their living sheweth. For the captains be priests, monks, and friars, that neither say mass nor matins, nor never come at church; talking still of faith, and full of false heresies; would seem Christ’s apostles, and play the devil’s dicers; speaking much of the Spirit, with no more devotion than dogs; divers of them priests, monks, and friars, not let to wed harlots, and then call them wives. And when they have once villained the sacrament of matrimony, then would they make us violate the sacrament of the altar too, telling us, as Tyndale doth, that it is sin to do the blessed body of Christ in that sacrament any honor or reverence, but only take it for a token. — These fellows, that nought had here, and therefore nought carried hence, nor nothing finding there to live upon, be yet sustained and maintained with money sent them by some evil-disposed persons out of this realm thither, and that for none other intent but to make them sit and seek out heresies, and speedily send them hither. Which books albeit that they neither can be there printed without great cost, nor here sold without great adventure and peril; yet cease they not, with money sent from hence, to print them there, and send them hither by whole vats full at once; and in some places, looking for no lucre, cast them abroad by night, — so great a pestilent pleasure have some devilish people caught, with the labor, travail, cost, charge, peril, harm and hurt of themselves, to seek the destruction of other.
As the devil hath a deadly delight to beguile good people, and bring their souls into everlasting torment without any manner winning, and not without final increase of his own eternal pain; so do these heretics, the devil’s disciples, by set their whole pleasure and study, to their own final damnation, in the training of simple souls to hell by their devilish heresies. “ It was in this same year that Tyndale lost the aid and society of Frith, who had been to him such as Timothy was to Paul. “As a son with the father, he had served with him in the gospel;” and we shall find Tyndale saying of him that he had no associate “like-minded.” And now as Tychicus by Paul, so Frith seems to have been sent by Tyndale, that he might know the estate of certain brethren in England, and comfort their hearts. His proceedings in England were however betrayed to More and to Stokesley, bishop of London; and when he had withdrawn to the coast of Essex, to seek the means of returning to the continent and to Tyndale, he was seized near Milton and committed to the Tower. Before the sad tidings of his being thus fallen into the hands of his enemies had reached Tyndale, he had written the following letter to Frith; addressing him by the name of Jacob, which Frith had probably assumed to avoid being known: “The grace of our Savior Jesus, his patience, meekness, humbleness, circumspection, and wisdom, be with your heart.
Amen. “Dearly beloved brother Jacob, mine heart’s desire in our Savior Jesus is, that you arm yourself with patience, and be cold, sober, wise, and circumspect, and that you keep you alow by the ground, avoiding high questions that pass the common capacity. But expound the law truly, and open the vail of Moses to condemn all flesh, and prove all men sinners, and all deeds under the law, before mercy have taken away the condemnation thereof, to be sin and damnable: and then, as a faithful minister, set abroad the mercy of our Lord Jesus. And let the wounded consciences drink of the water of him. And then shall your preaching be with power; and not as the doctrine of the hypocrites; and the Spirit of God shall work with you, and all consciences shall bear record unto you, and feel that it is so. And all doctrine that casteth a mist on those two, to shadow and hide them, mean the law of God and mercy of Christ, that resist you with all your power. Sacraments without signification refuse. If they put significations to them, receive them, if you see it may help, though it be not necessary. “Of the presence of Christ’s body in the sacrament, meddle as little as you can, that there appear no division among us. Barnes will be hot against you. The Saxons be sore on the affirmative; whether constant or obstinate, I remit it to God. Philip Melancthon is said to be with the French king. There be in Antwerp that say they saw him come into Paris with a hundred and fifty horses; and that they spoke with him. If the Frenchmen receive the word of God, he will plant the affirmative in them. George Joye would have put forth a treatise of the matter, but I have stopped him as yet: what he will do if he get money, I wet not. I believe he would make many reasons, little serving the purpose. My mind is that nothing be put forth, till we hear how you shall have sped. I would have the right use preached, and the presence to be an indifferent thing, till the matter might be reasoned in peace at leisure of both parties. If you be required, shew the phrases of the scripture, and let them talk what they will. For to believe that God is every where, hurteth no man that worshippeth him no where but within the heart, in spirit and verity: even so to believe that the body of Christ is every where, though it cannot be proved, hurteth no man that worshippeth him no where save in the faith of his gospel. You perceive my mind: howbeit, if God shew you otherwise, it is free for you to do as he moveth you. “I guessed long ago, that God would send a dazing into the head of the spiritualty, to be catched themselves in their own subtlety; and I trust it is come to pass. And now methinketh I smell a council to be taken, little for their profits in time to come. But you must understand that it is not of a pure heart, and for love of the truth; but to avenge themselves, and to eat the where’s flesh, and to suck the marrow of her bones. Wherefore cleave fast to the rock of the help of God, and commit the end of all things to him: and if God shall call you, that you may then use the wisdom of the worldly, as far as you perceive the glory of God may come thereof, refuse it not: and ever among thrust in, that the scripture may be in the mother tongue, and learning set up in the universities. But and if aught be required contrary to the glory of God and his Christ, then stand fast, and commit yourself to God; and be not overcome of men’s persuasions, which haply shall say we see no other way to bring in the truth. “Brother Jacob, beloved in my heart, there liveth not in whom I have so good hope and trust, and in whom mine heart rejoiceth, and my soul comforteth herself, as in you, not the thousand part so much for your learning and what other gifts else you have, as that you will creep Mow by the ground, and walk in those things that the conscience may feel, and not in the imaginations of the brain; in fear, and not in boldness; in open necessary things, and not to pronounce or define of hid secrets, or things that neither help or hinder, whether they be so or no; in unity, and not in seditious opinions; insomuch that if you be sure you know, yet in things that may abide leisure, you will defer, or say (till other agree with you), ‘Methink the text requireth this sense or understanding:’ yea, and that if you be sure that your part be good, and another hold the contrary, yet if it be a thing that maketh no matter, you will laugh and let it pass, and refer the thing to other men; and stick you stiffly and stubbornly in earnest and necessary things. And I trust you be persuaded even so of me. For I call God to record against the day we shall appear before our Lord Jesus, to give a reckoning of our doings, that I never altered one syllable of God’s word against my conscience, nor would this day, if all that is in the earth, whether it be pleasure, honor, or riches, might be given me. Moreover, I take God to record to my conscience, that I desire of God to myself, in this world, no more than that without which I cannot keep his laws. “Finally, if there were in me any gift that could keep at hand, and aid you if need required, I promise you I would not be far off, and commit the end to God: my soul is not faint, though my body be weary. But God hath made me evil-favored in this world, and without grace in the sight of men, speechless and rude, dull and slowwitted. Your part shall be to supply that lacketh in me, remembering that as lowliness of heart shall make you high with God, even so meekness of words shall make you sink into the hearts of men. Nature giveth age authority; but meekness is the glory of youth, and giveth them honor. Abundance of love maketh me exceed in babbling. “Sir, as concerning purgatory, and many other things, if you be demanded, you may say, if you err, the spiritualty hath so led you; and that they have taught you to believe as you do. For they preached you all such things out of God’s word, and alleged a thousand texts; by reason of which texts you believed as they taught you. But now you find them liars, and that the texts mean no such things, and there, fore you can believe them no longer; but are as ye were before they taught you, and believe no such thing: howbeit you are ready to believe, if they have any other way to prove it; for without proof you cannot believe them, when you have found them with so many lies, etc. If you perceive wherein we may help, either in being still, or doing somewhat, let us have word, and I will do mine uttermost. “My lord of London hath a servant called John Tisch, with a red beard, and a black reddish head, and was once my scholar; he was seen in Antwerp, but came not among the Englishmen: whither he is gone, an embassador secret, I wot not. “The mighty God of Jacob be with you to supplant his enemies, and give you the favor of Joseph; and the wisdom and the spirit of Stephen be with your heart and with your mouth, and teach your lips what they shall say, and how to answer to all things. He is our God, if we despair in ourselves, and trust in him; and his is the glory. Amen. WILLIAM TYNDALE.
I hope our redemption is nigh.”
The above letter is undated; but it reached Frith in his prison. And in the ‘Book made by John Frith, prisoner in the Tower,’ in answer to Sir Thomas More’s attack upon him as a teacher of the poison, which Tyndale and Luther, and “other beasts” had previously taught, he says: “Tyndale, I trust, liveth well content with such a poor apostle’s life as God gave his Son Christ and his faithful ministers in this world, which is not sure of so many mites as ye be yearly of pounds; although I am sure that, for his learning and judgment in scripture, he were more worthy to be promoted than all the bishops in England. I received a letter from him, which was written since Christmas, wherein, among other matters, he writeth thus, ‘I call God to record, against the day we shall appear: ‘“ — and continuing his quotation to the words’ his laws,’ Frith then says: “Judge, Christian reader, whether these words be not spoken of a faithful, clear, and innocent heart. And as for his behavior is such, that I am sure no man can reprove him of any sin; howbeit no man is innocent before God, which beholdeth the heart. “ In a preceding paragraph Frith had reminded More of the offer which we have seen that Tyndale had made to Vaughan; and he had again pledged Tyndale and himself to the same. “This,” said he, “hath been offered you, is offered, and shall be offered. Grant that the word of God (I mean the text of scripture) may go abroad in our English tongue, as other nations have it in their tongues; and my brother William Tyndale and have done, and will promise you to write no more. If yea will not grant this condition, then will we be doing while we have breath, and show in few words that the scripture doth in many, and so at the least save some. “ Whilst Frith in his prison was thus boldly bearing testimony to the character, learning, and purposes of Tyndale, the latter in his exile continued to make common cause with his beloved fellow-laborer. After writing the above letter, he seems to have quitted Antwerp for Nuremberg in central Germany, to take advantage of the printing presses in that free city for the publication of an exposition of “The supper of the Lord, after the true meaning of John 6 and of 1 Corinthians 9;” wherein “incidently,” to use Foxe’s expression, “is confuted the letter of Master More against John Frith. “ It was issued without the author’s name, from the press of Nicholas Twonson, April 5, 1533; but at its close he says, “As for Master More, whom the verity most offendeth, he knoweth my name well enough.”
Returning once more to Antwerp, which was now be* come a very perilous place of abode for any known abettor of the reformation, Tyndale heard that Frith was in the hands of his enemies, and that to deny the truth, or to suffer in the fire for it, was the alternative likely to be soon presented to him, if not already forced upon his choice; and with the spirit of a martyr, he wrote and sent the following “Letter from William Tyndale unto John Frith, being prisoner in the Tower of London.” “The grace and peace of God our Father, and of Jesus Christ our Lord, be with you. Amen. Dearly beloved brother John, I have heard say how the hypocrites, now that they have overcome that great business which letted them, or at the least way have brought it at a stay’, they return to their old nature again. The will of God be fulfilled, and that which he hath ordained to be ere the world was made, that come, and his glory reign over all. “Dearly beloved, however the matter be, commit yourself wholly and only unto your most loving Father and most kind Lord, and fear not men that threat, nor trust men that speak fair: but trust him that is true of promise, and able to make his word good. Your cause is Christ’s gospel, a light that must be fed with the blood of faith. The lamp must be dressed and snuffed daily, and that oil poured in every evening and morning, that the light go not out.
Though we be sinners, yet is the cause right. If when we be buffeted for well-doing, we suffer patiently and endure, that is acceptable to God; for to that end we are called. For Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps, who did no sin. Hereby have we perceived love, that he laid down his life for us: therefore we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto him. “Dearly beloved, be of good courage, and comfort your soul with the hope of this high reward, and bear the image of Christ in your mortal body, that it may at his coming be made like to his immortal: and follow the example of all your other dear brethren, which chose to suffer in hope of a better resurrection. Keep your conscience pure and undefiled, and say against that nothing. Stick at necessary things; and remember the blasphemies of the enemies of Christ, saying, ‘They find none but that will abjure rather than suffer the extremity.’ Moreover, the death of them that come again after they have once denied, though it be accepted with God and all that believe, yet is it not glorious; for the hypocrites say, ‘He must needs die; denying helpeth not: but might it have holpen, they would have denied five hundred times: but seeing it would not help them, therefore of pure pride, and mere malice together, they spake with their mouths that their conscience knoweth false.’ If you give yourself, cast yourself, yield yourself, commit yourself wholly and only to your loving Father; then shall his power be in you and make you strong, and that so strong, that you shall feel no pain, which should be to another present death: and his Spirit shall speak in you, and teach you what to answer, according to his promise. He shall set out his truth by you wonderfully, and work for you above all that your heart can imagine. Yea, and you are not yet dead; though the hypocrites all, with all that they can make, have sworn your death. Una salus victis nullam sperare salutem. To look for no man’s help bringeth the help of God to them that seem to be overcome in the eyes of the hypocrites: yea, it shall make God to carry you through thick and thin for his truth’s sake, in spite of all the enemies of his truth. There falleth not a hair till his hour be come: and when his hour is come, necessity carrieth us hence, though we be not willing. But if we be willing, then have we a reward and thanks. “Fear not the threatening, therefore, neither be overcome of sweet words; with which twain the hypocrites shall assail you. Neither let the persuasions of worldly wisdom bear rule in your heart; no, though they be your friends that counsel you. Let Bilney be a warning to you. Let not their vizor beguile your eyes. Let not your body faint, lie that endureth to the end shall be saved. If the pain be above your strength, remember, ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will give it you.’ And pray to your Father in that name, and he shall cease your pain, or shorten it. The Lord of peace, of hope, and of faith, be with you. Amen. “WILLIAM TYNDALE. “Two have suffered in Antwerp, in die sanctae crucis, unto the great glory of the gospel: four at Riselles in Flanders; and at Luke hath there one at the least suffered, and all the same day. At Roan in Franco they persecute; and at Paris are five doctors taken for the gospel. See, you are not alone. Be cheerful; and remember that among the hard-hearted in England there is a number reserved by grace: for whose sakes, if need be, you must be ready to suffer. Sir, if you may write, how short soever it be, forget it not; that we may know how it goeth with you, for our hearts’ ease. The Lord be yet again with you, with all his plenteousness, and fill you that you flow over. Amen. “If, when you have read this, you may send it to Adrian do, I pray you, that he may know how that our heart is with you. “George Joye at Candlemas, being at Barrow, printed two leaves of Genesis in a great form, and sent one copy to the king, and another to the new queen, with a letter to N. for to deliver them; and to purchase licence, that he might so go through all the bible. Out of this is sprung the noise of the new bible; and out of that is the great seeking for English books at all printers and bookbinders in Antwerp, and for an English priest that should print. “This chanced the 9th day of May. “Sir, your wife is well content with the will of God, and would not, for her sake, have the glory of God hindered. WILLIAM TYNDALE.” This seasonable letter could not have reached Frith more than a very few weeks, perhaps but a few days, before his martyrdom; and as he was advised in this letter to do, so by the grace of God he did to the last.
Thus was Tyndale bereaved of the friend of whom he had fondly said, “It shall be your part to supply that lacketh in me.” But in his season of great affliction the Lord seems to have given him especial favor in the eyes of his countrymen, the English merchants dwelling at Antwerp. For it must have been at this period of Tyndale’s sojourn in that city, that Foxe heard what he has related of his manner of life there: how being “a great student and earnest laborer, namely in the setting forth of the scriptures of God, he reserved or hallowed to himself two days in the week, which he named his days of pastime; and those days were Monday the first day in the week, and Saturday the last day in the week. On the Monday he visited all such poor men and women as were fled out of England by reason of persecution into Antwerp; and those, well understanding their good exercises and qualities, he did very liberally comfort and relieve; and in like manner provided for the sick and diseased persons. On the Saturday he walked round about the town in Antwerp, seeking out every corner and hole, where he suspected any poor person to dwell; and where he found any to be well occupied, and yet overburdened with children, or else were aged or weak, those also he plentifully relieved. And thus he spent his two days of pastime, as he called them. And truly his alms was very large and great: and so it might well be; for his exhibition, that he had yearly of the English merchants, was very much; and that for the most part he bestowed upon the poor, as afore said. The rest of the days in the week he gave him wholly to his book, wherein most diligently he travailed. When the Sunday came, then went he to some one merchant’s chamber or other, whither came many other merchants: and unto them would he read some one parcel of scripture, either out of the old Testament or out of the new; the which proceeded so fruitfully, sweetly and gently from him, (much like to the writings of St John the evangelist,) that it was a heavenly comfort and joy to the audience to hear him read the scripture; and in like wise, after dinner, he spent an hour in the aforesaid manner. “ In 1534 the demand for Tyndale’s New Testaments had so much increased as to induce the Antwerp printers to issue no less than four new editions of them. But whilst Tyndale was taking time to give his translation a careful revision, and before he could complete it, he had the mortification of discovering that one of these printers had been employing George Joye to correct the sheets of a surreptitious edition, in which he had ventured, without consulting Tyndale, to make such alterations in the language as nothing but ignorance of the Greek original could have led him to suppose allowable. This could not but tend to make Tyndale’s readers distrust the accuracy of his version, especially as they would see that Joye’s edition corresponded more closely with the Latin Vulgate; to which he had in fact looked for guidance in most of the changes he had introduced. Hence Tyndale rebuked him sharply; and Joye’s reply, published under the title of An Apology, has eventually supplied a direct proof, for the satisfaction of such as might still think it needed, of Tyndale’s knowledge of both the languages of the inspired original text of the scriptures. For Joye has there said, “I am not afraid to answer Master Tyndale in this matter, for all his high learning in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. “ On the other hand, Tyndale himself seems to have felt that it was needed that he should satisfy his contemporaries respecting his opinions about the condition of those who have departed this life in the faith of Christ. He therefore introduced the following protest, or solemn attestation of his belief on this head, into the preface of his own revised version of the new Testament, sent forth this year, printed at Antwerp by Marten Emperowr. “A protestation made by William Tyndale, touching the resurrection of the bodies, and the state of the souls after this life.
Abstracted out of a preface of his, that he made to the new Testament which he set forth in the year 1534. f88 “Concerning the resurrection, I protest before God and our Savior Jesus Christ, and before the universal congregation that believeth in him, that I believe, according to the open and manifest scriptures and catholic faith, that Christ is risen again in the flesh which he received of his mother the blessed virgin Mary, and body wherein he died: and that we shall all, both good and bad, rise both flesh and body, and appear together before the judgment-seat of Christ, to receive every man according to his deeds: and that the bodies of all that believe, and continue in the true faith of Christ, shall be endued with like immortality and glory as is the body of Christ. “And I protest before God, and our Savior Christ, and all that believe in him, that I hold of the souls that are departed as much as may be proved by manifest and open scripture, and think the souls departed in the faith of Christ, and love of the law of God, to be in no worse case than the soul of Christ was from the time that he delivered his spirit into the hands of his Father until the resurrection of his body in glory and immortality. Nevertheless, I confess openly, that I am not persuaded that they be already in the full glory that Christ is in, or the elect angels of God are in. Neither is it any article of my faith: for if it so were, I see not but then the preaching of the resurrection of the flesh were a thing in vain.
Notwithstanding yet I am ready to believe it, if it may be proved with open scripture. “Moreover, I take God (which alone seeth the heart) to record to my conscience, beseeching him that my part be not in the blood of Christ, if I wrote, of all that I have written throughout all my book, aught of an evil purpose, of envy or malice to any man, or to stir up any false doctrine or opinion in the church of Christ, or to be author of any sect, or to draw disciples after me, or that I would be esteemed or had in price above the least child that is born; save only of pity and compassion I had, and yet have, on the blindness of my brethren, and to bring them unto the knowledge of Christ, and to make every one of them, if it were possible, as perfect as an angel of heaven; and to weed out all that is not planted of our heavenly Father, and to bring down all that lifteth up itself against the knowledge of the salvation that is in the blood of Christ. Also my part be not in Christ, if mine heart be not to follow and live according as I teach; and also if mine heart weep not night and day for mine own sin and other men’s indifferently, beseeching God to convert us all, and to take his wrath from us, and to be merciful as well to all other men as to mine own soul; caring for the wealth of the realm I was born in, for the king and all that are thereof, as a tender-hearted mother would do for her only son. “As concerning all I have translated or otherwise written, I beseech all men to read it for that purpose I wrote it, even to bring them to the knowledge of the scripture; and as far as the scripture approveth it, so far to allow it; and if in any place the word of God disallow it, there to refuse it, as I do before our Savior Christ and his congregation. And where they find faults, let them shew it me, if they be nigh, or write to me if they be far off; or write openly against it, and improve it; and I promise them, if I shall perceive that their reasons conclude, I will confess mine ignorance openly.”
Neither was Tyndale wanting to himself, when it became him to shew that he could acknowledge, with grateful respect, any countenance given by his earthly superiors to the circulation of God’s holy word. He must have heard, with happy thankfulness, of the interference of Anne Boleyn in behalf of an Antwerp merchant, who had suffered losses and imprisonmerit for aiding to circulate his testaments. On the 14th of May she had written, as queen, to secretary Cromwell, telling him that whereas she was “credibly informed that Richard Harman, merchant and citizen of Antwerp, was put and expelled from his freedom and fellowship of and in the English house there, for nothing else but only for that he, like a good Christian man, did both with his goods and policy, to his great hurt and hinderance in this world, help to the setting forth of the new Testament in English: We therefore desire and instantly pray you, that with all speed and favor convenient ye will cause this good and honest merchant to be restored to his pristine freedom, liberty, and fellowship aforesaid; and the sooner at this our request. “ The simple and becoming gift by which Tyndale acknowledged his respect for a queen of England, who could thus use her influence, was an unique copy of his new Testament, printed on vellum, and made handsome at a cost to which the grateful merchant doubtless contributed; not dedicated to her in words of flattery, but marked with her name and title on its margins, whilst his own was suppressed. f90 In 1535, Tyndale was doubtless employing himself on the continuance of his version of the old Testament. Towards the close of that year, he was still at Antwerp, and hospitably lodged there in the house of Mr.. Thomas Poyntz, an English merchant, who had a brother in the king’s household, and was himself a lover of the gospel. It was avowedly from this merchant’s testimony that Foxe gathered the account which we shall now transcribe: “About this time there came one out of England [to Antwerp], whose name was Henry Philips, his father being customer of Poole, a comely fellow, like as he had been a gentleman, having a servant with him; but wherefore he came, or for what purpose he was sent thither, no man could tell. Master Tyndale divers times was desired forth to dinner and supper among merchants: by the means whereof this Henry Philips became acquainted with him; so that within short space M. Tyndale had a great confidence in him, and brought him to his lodging to the house of Thomas Poyntz, and had him also once or twice with him to dinner and supper, and further entered such friendship with him that, through his procurement, he lay in the same house of the said Poyntz: to whom he shewed moreover his books and other secrets of his study; so little did Tyndale then mistrust this traitor. “But Poyntz, having no great confidence in the fellow, asked master Tyndale how he came acquainted with this Philips. Master Tyndale answered, that he was an honest man, handsomely learned, and very conformable. Then Poyntz, perceiving that he bare such favor unto him, said no more; thinking that he was brought acquainted with him by some friend of his. The said Philips, being in the town three or four days, upon a time desired Poyntz to walk with him forth of the town, to shew him the commodities thereof; and, in walking together about the town, had communication of divers things, and some of the king’s affairs. By the which talk Poyntz as yet suspected nothing; but after, by the sequel of the matter, he perceived more what he intended. In the mean time this he well perceived, that he bare no great favor either to the setting forth of any good thing, either to the proceedings of the king of England. But after, when the time was past, Poyntz perceived this to be his mind, — to feel if he could perceive by him, whether he might break with him in the matter, for lucre of money to help him to his purpose; for he perceived before that he was monied, and would that Poyntz should think no less; but by whom, it was unknown. For he had desired Poyntz before to help him to divers things; and such things as he named, he required might be of the best: For, said he, I have money enough. But of this talk came nothing, but that men should think he had some things to do; for nothing else followed of his talk. — From Antwerp Philips went to the court of Brussels, the king having there no ambassador; for at that time the king of England and the emperor were at a controversy for the question betwixt the king and Catharine, who was aunt to the emperor; so that Philips, as a traitor both against God and the king, was there the better retained, as also other traitors more besides him, who, after he had betrayed master Tyndale into their hands, shewed himself against the king’s own person, and there set forth things against the king. To make short, the said Philips did so much there, that he procured to bring from thence with him, to Antwerp, that procurer general which is the emperor’s attorney, with other certain officers: the which was not done with small charges and expense, from whomsoever it came. “Within a while after, Poyntz sitting at his door, Philips’ man came unto him, and asked whether master Tyndale were there; and said, his master would come to him; and so departed. But whether his master, Philips, were in the town or not, it was not known: but at that time Poyntz heard no more, neither of the master nor of the mall. Within three or four days after, Poyntz went forth to the town of Barrow, being eighteen English miles from Antwerp, where he had business to do for the space of a month or six weeks; and in the time of his absence, Henry Philips came again to Antwerp to the house of Poyntz, and coming in, spake with his wife, asking her for Master Tyndale, and whether he could dine there with him; saying, ‘What good meat shall we have?’ she answered, ‘Such as the market will give.’ Then went he forth again (as it is thought) to provide and set the officers, which he brought with him from Brussels, in the street and about the door. Then about noon he came again, and went to master Tyndale, and desired him to lend him forty shillings: ‘For,’ said he, ‘I lost my purse this morning, coming over at the passage between this and Mechlin.’ So Master Tyndale took him forty shillings; the which was easy to be had of him, if he had it; for in the wily subtilties of this world he was simple and unexpert. “Then said Philips, ‘Master Tyndale, you shall be my guest here this day.’ ‘No,’ said master Tyndale, ‘I go forth this day to dinner; and you shall go with me, and be my guest, where you shall be welcome.’ So when it was dinner-time, master Tyndale went forth with Philips; and at the going out of Poyntz’ house was a long narrow entry, so that two could not go in a front. Master Tyndale would have put Philips before him, but Philips would in no wise, but put master Tyndale afore; for that he pretended to shew great humanity. So master Tyndale, being a man of no great stature, went before; and Philips, a tall comely person, followed behind him, who had set officers on either side of the door upon two seats, (which, being there, might see who came in the entry;) and coming through the same entry Philips pointed with his finger over master Tyndale’s head down to him, that the officers, which sat at the door, might see that it was he whom they should take; as the officers, that took master Tyndale, afterward told Poyntz; and said to Poyntz, when they had laid him in prison, that they pitied to see his simplicity when they took him. Then they brought him to the emperor’s attorney, where he dined. Then came the said attorney to the house of Poyntz, and sent away all that was there of master Tyndale’s, as well his books as other things: and from thence Tyndale was had to the castle of Vilford, eighteen English miles from Antwerp; and there he remained until he was put to death.”
Foxe proceeds to say that, ‘by the help of English merchants,’ letters were immediately sent to the court of Brussels in favor of Tyndale. But the Cotton MSS. have been found to contain a letter from Poyntz to his brother John, dated from Antwerp, Aug. 25, 1535, in the postscript of which he says, “I think that if Walter Marsch, now being governor [of the English factory], had done his duty effectually here at this time, there would have been a remedy found for this man.” In the same letter he says to his brother, the seizure of Tyndale “was done by procurement out of England, and, as I suppose, unknown to the king’s grace till it was done.”
He also tells him, “It was said here, the king had granted his gracious letters in the favor of William Tyndale, for to have been sent hither; the which is in prison, and like to suffer death, except it be through his gracious help. But it is thought those letters be stopped. — By the means that this poor man, William Tyndale, has lain in my house three quarters of a year, I know that the king has never a truer-hearted subject to his grace this day living; and, for that he does know that he is bound by the law of God to obey his prince, I wet well he would not do the contrary, to be made lord of the world, however the king’s grace may be informed. — The death of this man would be a great hinderance to the gospel; and to the enemies of it one of the highest pleasures. But and if it should please the king’s highness to send for this man, so that he might dispute his articles with him at large, which they lay to him, it might by the mean thereof be so opened to the court and the council of this country, that they would be at another point with the bishop of Rome within a short space. And I think he shall be shortly at a point to be condemned; for there are two Englishmen at Louvaine that do and have applied it sore, taking great pains to translate out of English into Latin those things that may make against him — so that the clergy here may understand it and condemn him, as they have done all others for keeping opinions contrary to their business, the which they call The order of holy church. Brother, the knowledge that I have of this man causes me to write as my conscience binds me; for the king’s grace should have of him, at this day, as high a treasure as of any one man living, that has been of no greater reputation. Therefore I desire you that this matter may be solicited to his grace for this man, with as good effect as shall be in you, or by your means to be done; for, on my conscience, there be not many perfecter in this day living, as knows God, who have you in keeping.
Your brother, THOMAS POYNTZ. “ This letter was probably the means of inducing Cromwell to send his next dispatch in Tyndale’s behalf, if indeed it was not his first, to a merchant named Flegge, rather than to Marsch. Flegge’s reply announces that he received it on the 10th of September, along with a letter from the English secretary of state to the archbishop of Palermo, president of the princess regent’s council, and another for the margrave of Bergen; and that such steps were consequently taken by the English merchants as Foxe has described in the paragraphs immediately succeeding our last quotation from him; beginning as follows, from the account of Tyndale’s removal to Vilvorden: “Then incontinent, by the help of English merchants, were letters sent in the favor of Tyndale to the court of Brussels. Also not long after, letters were directed out of England to the council at Brussels, and sent to the merchants adventurers at Antwerp, commanding them to see that with speed they should be delivered.
Then such of the chiefest of the merchants as were there at that time, being called together, required the said Poyntz to take in hand the delivery of those letters, with letters also from them in the favor of master Tyndale, to the lord of Barrowe and others; the which lord of Barrowe (as it was told Poyntz by the way) at that time was departed from Brussels, as the chiefest conductor of the eldest daughter of the king of Denmark to be married to the palsgrave: who, after he heard of his departure, did ride after the next way, and overtook him at Akon, where he delivered to him his letters; the which when he had received and read, he made no direct answer, but somewhat objecting said, ‘There were of their countrymen that were burned in England, not long before;’ as indeed there were anabaptists burnt in Smithfield, and so Poyntz said to him. ‘Howbeit,’ said he, ‘whatsoever the crime was, if his lordship or any other nobleman had written, requiring to have had them, he thought they should not have been denied.’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘I have no leisure to write; for the princess is ready to ride.’
Then said Poyntz, ‘If it shall please your lordship, I will attend upon you unto the next baiting-place;’ which was at Maestricht. ‘If you so do,’ said the lord, ‘I will advise myself by the way, what to write.’ So Poyntz followed him from Akon to Maestricht, the which are fifteen English miles asunder; and there he received letters of him, one to the council there, another to the company of the merchants adventurers, and another also to the lord Cromwell.
So Poyntz rode from thence to Brussels, and then and there delivered to the council the letters out of England, with the lord of Barrowe’s letters also; and received eftsoons answer into England of the same by letters, which he brought to Antwerp to the English merchants, who required him to go with them into England; and he, very desirous to have master Tyndale out of prison, let not for to take pains, with loss of time in his own business and occupying, but diligently followed with the said letters, which he there delivered to the council, and was commanded by them to tarry until he had other letters, of the which he was not dispatched thence in a month after. At length, the letters being delivered him, he returned again, and delivered them to the emperor’s council at Brussels, and there tarried for answer of the same. “When the said Poyntz had tarried three or four days, it was told him, of one that belonged to the chancery, that master Tyndale should have been delivered to him according to the tenor of the letters; but Philips, being there, followed the suit against master Tyndale, and hearing that he should be delivered to Poyntz, and doubting lest he should be put from his purpose, he knew none other remedy but to accuse Poyntz, saying, that he was a dweller in the town of Antwerp, and there had been a succourer of Tyndale, and was one of the same opinion, and that all this was only his own labor and suit, to have master Tyndale at liberty, and no man’s else. “Thus, upon his information and accusation, Poyntz was attached by the procurer general, and delivered to the keeping of two serjeants of arms; and the same evening was sent to him one of the chancery with the procurer general, who ministered unto him an oath, that he should truly make answer to all such things as should be inquired of him; thinking they would have had no other examinations of him, but of his message. The next day likewise they came again, and had him in examination, and so five or six days, one after another, upon not so few as an hundred articles, as well of the king’s affairs as of the message concerning Tyndale, of his alders and of his religion. Out of the which examinations the procurer general drew twenty-three or twenty-four articles, and declared the same against the said Poyntz: the copy whereof he delivered to him to make answer thereunto, and permitted him to have an advocate and proctor. And order was taken, that eight days after he should deliver unto them his answer; and from eight days to eight days to proceed, till the process were ended; also that he should send no messenger to Antwerp, where his house was, nor to any other place but by the post of the town of Brussels; nor to send any letters, nor any to be delivered to him, but written in Dutch; and the procurer general, who was party against him, to read them, before they were sent or delivered. Neither might any be suffered to speak or talk with Poyntz in any other tongue or language, except only in the Dutch tongue, so that his keepers, who were Dutchmen, might understand what the contents of the letters or talk should be; saving that at one certain time the provincial of the white friars came to dinner where Poyntz was prisoner, and brought with him a young novice, being an Englishman, whom the provincial, after dinner, of his own accord did bid to talk with the said Poyntz, and so with him he was licensed to talk. The purpose, and great policy therein, was easy to be perceived. — — After this Poyntz delivered up his answer to the procuror general; and then after, at the days appointed, went forth with replication duplicke with other answers each to other, in writing what they could. As the commissioners came to Poyntz, Philips the traitor accompanied them to the door, in following the process against him; as he also did against master Tyndale; for so they, that had Poyntz in keeping, shewed him. Thus Poyntz for master Tyndale was sore troubled, and long kept in prison; but at length, when he saw no other remedy, by night he made his escape, and avoided their hands.”
In the mean while, Tyndale had been immured twelve months in Vilvorden castle: but the Lord was with him, and shewed him his mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of his prison; so that, according to Foxe, “he converted the keeper, and his daughter and others of his household; and the rest, that were conversant with him in the castle, reported of him, that if he were not a good christian man, they could not tell whom to trust.” But if it was given to him to be the means of turning some sinners within the walls of his prison from the error of their ways by his faithful words and holy example, the favor of the prison-keeper enabled him to continue his labors, so that from those prison-walls “sounded out the word of the Lord” into all parts where the English tongue was spoken.
Foxe says that after Tyndale’s seizure “there were certain things of his doing found, which he had intended to have put forth to the furtherance of God’s word, among which was the testament of M. Tracy, expounded by himself.” But Mr.. Anderson seems to have discovered, that Tyndale’s exposition of Tracy’s testament, in which he sets forth the dishonor done to the only Mediator between God and man by seeking the aid of departed saints for a departed sinner, was actually published this year along with Wicliffe’s Wicket, a tract on the words “This is my body, “ then printed for the first time. There was also a third edition of Tyndale’s Obedience printed this year at Strasburg; and three editions of his new Testament are believed to have been printed at Antwerp in 1535. It is probable that none of these editions of his works and translations were carried through the press without some communication with their author. One at least of them lays claim to having been prepared for publication under his especial care; being entitled “The new Testament, diligently corrected and compared with the Greek, by Willyam Tyndale: and finished in the year of our Lord God.”
In this edition his diligent and tender care for his poor countrymen does indeed appear, in a very remarkable manner. We have seen that before he had begun the work of translation, he had pledged himself that ‘if God spared his life, he would cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the scriptures’ than a popish priest. In 1535, he saw plainly that his life was not to be spared much longer. Laying aside therefore all that display of good writing in which a scholar would have prided himself, he prepared this edition for the instruction of the plough-boys in his native country, by printing it in what might properly be called the vulgar tongue, conforming the spelling to their rude pronunciation whilst to help them to the understanding of the subjects treated of, he put headings, for the first time, to the chapters.
The imprisoned reformer was at the same time defending the doctrines he had taught, in a series of replies to attacks made upon him by the theologians of Louvaine; but of these, whether conversations only, or written answers to written charges, no relic remains. But though suffering trouble as an evil doer even unto bonds, Tyndale might well say as the apostle did, “The word of God is not bound;” for he too had his Timothy, his own son in the faith, who was carefully preserving, and probably already beginning to print, the fruits of Tyndale’s continued labors as a translator of the Hebrew scriptures. This person was John Rogers, who had been educated at Cambridge, and invited to Antwerp, to fill the place of chaplain to the English factory. There he had read the scriptures with Tyndale, and in the scriptures he had found the way of salvation. It could scarcely have been without some English merchant’s pecuniary aid (and some have supposed that Thomas Matthew was the merchant’s name,) that Rogers commenced in secret the printing of that noble English folio Bible, called Matthew’s Bible; which begins with a reprint of Tyndale’s pentateuch, as it closes with a reprint of his new Testament, incorporating his instructive preface; and further contains, what had never before been printed, a translation by Tyndale of all the historical Hebrew scriptures to the end of the second book of Chronicles.
Foxe says that it was reported, that whilst he was prisoner, “there was much writing, and great disputation, to and fro,” between him and the Romanists in the neighboring university of Louvaine; and that the court, which sat in judgment upon him, observed its usual custom of offering him permission to have an advocate and a proctor, “to make answer in the law.
But he refused to have any such, saying, that he would answer for himself; and so he did.” Nor does his defense of himself seem to have been useless; for if it is true that the emperor’s attorney was constrained to acknowledge, that he was “a learned, a good, and a godly man,” the answers and demeanor, which extorted this confession from the official prosecutor, must have been well fitted to speak to the consciences of all present, in testimony that the cause, for which this holy man was ready to give up his life, was the cause of God. “At last,” says Foxe, “after much reasoning’, when no reasoning would serve, although he deserved no death, he was condemned by virtue of the emperor’s decree, made in the assembly at Augsburgh; and upon the same brought forth to the place of execution; was there tied to the stake; and then strangled first by the hangman, and afterward with fire consumed, in the morning [of October 6 th ], at the town of Vilvorden, in the year 1536; crying thus at the stake with a fervent zeal and a loud voice, ‘Lord, open the king of England’s eyes’.”
The dying martyr’s prayer was thus far answered, that the king of England’s eyes were opened to the folly of continuing to fight against the circulation of Tyndale’s versions of the scriptures. Before the waning year had come to its close, the first volume of holy scripture, ever printed on English ground, came forth from the press of the king’s own printer; and that volume was a folio Testament, Tyndale’s own version, with his prologues too, and with the long proscribed name of William Tyndale openly set forth on its title-page. Nor was this all that Henry was to sanction, towards the fulfilling of Tyndale’s fervent desires for his beloved country. The subsequently eminent English printers, Grafton and Whitchurch, undertook the cost of completing, though not at an English press, that bible which Rogers had begun. So much of the scriptures as Tyndale had not lived to translate, was filled up from Coverdale’s secondary translation of the whole bible, made in 1535; and the whole was completed, with a dedication to the king, and a copy of it presented to archbishop Cranmer by Grafton, before the 4th of the following August; on which day we find the archbishop sending Grafton and his bible to Cromwell, and requesting him to show it to the king, and to obtain, if possible, his royal “license that the same may be sold, and read of every person, without danger of any act, proclamation, or ordinance hereto fore granted to the contrary. “ That bible said, “The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord; as the rivers of water he turneth it whithersoever he will;” and the heart of this wayward king was now turned to sanction what he had pronounced detestable. On the 13th of August Cranmer wrote again to Cromwell, as follows: “Whereas I understand that your lordship, at my request, hath not only exhibited the bible which I sent unto you to the king’s majesty, but also hath obtained of his grace that the same shall be allowed, by his authority, to be bought and read within this realm; my lord, for this your pains, taken in this behalf, I give unto you my most hearty thanks; assuring your lordship, for the contentation of my mind, you have shewed me more pleasure herein, than if you had given me a thousand pound; and I doubt not but that hereby such fruit of good knowledge shall ensue, that it shall well appear hereafter what high and acceptable service you have done unto God and the king. — As for me, you may reckon me your bondman for the same; and I dare be bold to say, so may ye do my lord of Worcester. “ Tyndale had said to Vaughan, “If the king would grant only a bare text of the scripture to be put forth among his people, be it the translation of what person soever he shall please, I will promise never to write more, nor abide two days in these parts.” He was to write no more; and he no longer abode on this earth; but more than he had asked had been given him by the King of kings. The scripture was licensed to be put forth; and his own translation was accepted; and his instructive prefaces were not to be expunged, but to be more than tacitly acknowledged to contain a godly and wholesome doctrine, necessary for those times.
And now, in old John Foxe’s words, “Thus much of William Tyndale, who, for his notable pains and travail, may be worthily called an apostle of England.”